It was with great anticipation that I bumped up the dirt track to !Khwa ttu on Friday afternoon (28 November) to attend the West Coast Biodiversity Corridor Initiative Milestone Event and the launch of West Coast Way Routes: Culture and the Foodie Route.
The prestigious event, held at the !Khwa ttu conference centre and attended not only by local stakeholders but also by dignitaries, was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by a visionary group of people whose commitment to the growth and conservation of the West Coast has been unwavering.
The West Coast Biodiversity Corridor Initiative is led by SANParks in partnership with key stakeholders such as the: DBSA/Green Fund, Cape Nature, Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, City of Cape Town, West Coast District Municipality, Saldanha and Swartland Local Municipalities as well as local landowners, tourism product owners and communities.
The innovative initiative is part of SANParks Rural Development Programme which aims to demonstrate that biodiversity and cultural heritage protection can contribute significantly to social and economic development, including through the delivery of green jobs.
The milestones that were celebrated on Friday were the handover of the West Coast Biodiversity Corridor Landowner Survey Report by SANParks to the Green Fund and the GEF 5 programme of the UNDP as well as the launch of the new West Coast Way tourism routes.
In a keynote address, Provincial Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde pledged both his and his department’s wholehearted support for the initiative and expressed his belief that this innovative project would achieve its long-term objectives to the overall benefit of the entire region.
Also music to my ears – and extremely gratifying and encouraging – were the inspirational words from Mr Babatunde Omilola United Nations Development Programme representative. Not only do they support the initiative but also pledged $8,5 million over 5 years towards it.
Perhaps most significant of all is that the landowners in the region have given overwhelming support to explore the potential to establish a mega game reserve along the West Coast, stretching from the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve to the West Coast National Park with the Darling Hills as a possible eastern boundary.
As Carmen Lerm from West Coast Way says, “The exciting mega reserve is showcased through a 101+ things to do and see in the West Coast and will become the playground of the City of Cape Town and a must-experience for both domestic and international visitors.”
If landowners agreed to take down their fences, the outcome could be phenomenal with unlimited possibilities. It would enable new game introduction and freer game movement which could be facilitated through culverts under the R27. This would seriously catalyse related investment into the West Coast Corridor, such as the development of hiking and biking trails along the full length of the Corridor, including the coastline; a variety of other tourism-related products and activities.
It would also create great new opportunities for new West Coast Way Routes to help visitors maximize their visit: “It is about the rich experience, the vibrant people, food and colours you will find here. Not to mention the beautiful unspoilt environment and the myriad of attractions and activities that can be enjoyed on the Cape West Coast,” says Carmen.
And with such prominent and heartfelt support, I think it’s safe to say that the initiative and related projects are finally well under way – and the West Coast Way is poised to become an internationally recognised way of life.
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For more information on the West Coast Way Routes call us on 0861 321 777 [email protected]