Greening the future: Notes on a successful partnership between BotSoc & CPUT

Written by Joseph Kioko and Catherine Clulow

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) signed a memorandum of agreement in 2014. Heading into the third year of this three year contract, the success stories are encouraging and the partnership will be continued for another three years. The purpose of this partnership was a pilot study for the BotSoc to support a tertiary educational institution and in particular their nature conservation students.

Students taking the National Diploma in Nature Conservation at CPUT undergo highly valuable hands-on training, thanks to funding from BotSoc. The training was facilitated by a highly knowledgeable team led by the City of Cape Town and held at the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust’s (CTEET) Zeekoevlei camp.

The one-week training camp is part of the curriculum of CPUT’s Nature Conservation Diploma, and is designed to integrate what the students have learnt in lectures and practicals with applied skills needed for work. By their nature, these skills can best be taught in situ, in a conservation setting and by professionals working in the conservation sector.

Skills taught are many and varied, including: Setting up and manning night observation points in a Nature Reserve, using dart guns for baboon management, operation of chain-saws and bush-cutters, the use of Sherman traps for small animal surveys, fixed-point photography for vegetation surveys, the use of field guides for the identification of flora and fauna, park maintenance, park management, alien clearing, GPS mapping, and the use of biodiversity databases, among other technical skills.

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Image supplied by CPUT

Students also learnt and practiced ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork, leadership and communication by taking turns to act as supervisors or team members while undertaking specific tasks. This was combined with workshops about time management and reserve management, also given by expert practising conservationists from the City of Cape Town.

Although this camp has been run by CPUT for a number of years, the camp in 2015 represented a new beginning and was different from all previous camps. For the first time, the students did not have to pay for the camp from their own pockets, the 2015 and 2016 camps were fully funded by BotSoc, including transport, food and training expenses. Therefore for the first time students who did not have the means could fully participate.

Previously, those students who could not afford the camp were disadvantaged even further by missing the training. Some students could afford only the transport costs but had no funds for sufficient nourishment and water during the training camp. The feedback from students highlighted that the provision of food saved time that would have been lost when all students had to prepare their own meals, and so there was more time for conservation activities.

The provision of meals also provided a good opportunity for students from all backgrounds to socialise, learn from each other, and sow the seeds for fruitful collaboration as professionals. Therefore the full sponsorship of the camp by BotSoc was a key component in enabling the success of students who would otherwise have been marginalised, and is a tangible contribution towards the inclusion of young people from diverse backgrounds in entering the conservation profession.

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Image supplied by CPUT

Students have expressed their great appreciation of the training received and were full of praise for the facilitators, and singled out experts and field rangers from the City of Cape Town as well as the CTEET staff for the quality of nourishment provided.

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Image supplied by CPUT

According to Prof. Kioko, the success of the field training camp is the result of highly effective collaboration with organisations such as the City of Cape Town, CTEET, and BotSoc, and is very grateful to those organisations. He added that it is BotSoc that provided the ‘glue’ for the collaboration that delivered the successful 2015 and 2016 camps by providing the funding. The collaboration between BotSoc and CPUT is making a real difference in training the conservationists of the future.

Another activity supported through collaborations is that the first and second year students visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens annually. BotSoc facilitates entry and information guides to assist learning through another great partnership with SANBI. You can read more about the BotSoc- SANBI partnership here. This year, the students attended an outing to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Compton Herbarium, where they were shown and taught about specimen preservation and research with Christopher Cupido at the Compton Herbarium.

Following this they enjoyed using the gardens as their outdoor classroom for the day. Welcomed by BotSoc Executive Assistant, Catherine Clulow and told about the BotSoc/ SANBI partnership, students were then led by SANBI’s Julia September on an in depth tour of the gardens to highlight conservation in situ and ex situ. The group were treated to behind the scenes visits to areas of conservation management and research within the gardens and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

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CPUT nature conservation students visit Kirstenbosch 2016. © Catherine Clulow

BotSoc provides CPUT with resources used in broadening student’s knowledge and interest in biodiversity, and Veld & Flora magazines are used for discussion topics and passion sharing. Students return the ‘favour’ so to speak, in promoting the Society during their WIL internships, when they give presentations about BotSoc to their host institutions, thereby spreading the word about the Society.

It is inspiring to see the determination and spirit of the next generation and we wish all who are influenced by this partnership, to be inspired and develop ever- growing passion to remain interested and working in the environmental sector, greening the future.

Acknowledgement: We would like to thank the BotSoc members who so generously donate funds for this project.

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In a nutshell: South Africa’s National Strategy for Plant Conservation

Written by Catherine Clulow

As signatory to the Convention of Biological Diversity, South Africa is dedicated to a national strategy to safeguard plants aligned with the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. South Africa is in a prime position to make a significant impact to global plant conservation as we have 6% of the world’s plant diversity and strong botanical and conservation capacity. This blog aims to spread awareness about the strategy and its importance, as well as the role BotSoc is playing in its implementation.

Over the past two years the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) have worked together with South African botanists and conservationists to develop this strategy. The South African National Strategy for Plant Conservation (NSPC) includes 16 outcome-orientated targets, which if well-implemented will lead to the improved conservation of plants.

Due to South Africa being megadiverse and facing unique challenges, the global targets were altered for the development of South Africa’s strategy. The targets were altered in such a way that they are attainable and relevant in the South African context. The targets range from documenting conservation status of plants, to conservation in situ and ex situ. There are targets tackling the threat of alien vegetation and a range of targets addressing the sustainable use of plants.

The strategy ends with targets focusing on its implementation and increased awareness and education about plants and the need to conserve them. Each target is nationally relevant and aligned with activities identified by the South African National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). South Africa’s Strategy for Plant Conservation is available here.

South Africa’s Strategy for Plant Conservation has 5 objectives that outline the 16 Targets to be implemented by 2020.

These objectives are:
1. Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognised;
2. Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved;
3. Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner;
4. Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted;
5. The capacity and public engagement necessary to implement the strategy have been developed.

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BotSoc has been directly involved in assisting in editing this strategy and are committed to the implementation of specific targets 14, 15 and 16.

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Target 14: The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes.

Target outcomes for 2020

– Plant conservation included in the life science curriculum across SA

– Plant conservation awareness expanded by exposure to botanical gardens and by involving the public in citizen science projects

– Plant conservation promoted in relevant media

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Target 15: The number of trained people working with appropriate facilities sufficient according to national needs, to achieve the targets of this strategy.

Target outcomes for 2020

– Conservation courses offered in SA’s universities aligned with skills needed in the field of plant conservation

-Work place mentorship opportunities available in plant conservation programmes

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Target 16: Institutions, networks and partnerships for plant conservation established and strengthened at national, regional and international levels to achieve the targets of this strategy.

Target outcomes for 2020

-A South African network for plant conservation effectively implementing and updating the NSPC.

-Working groups for each target ensuring that specified outputs are being achieved.

Through BotSoc’s activities and partnerships we aim to contribute to the implementation of these targets and successfully achieve the outcomes laid out in the strategy. In doing so, we will be playing our vital and attainable role, and contributing to the greater scheme of safeguarding South Africa’s rich and unique floral heritage, as laid out in the NSPC.

Over the next few years stories of the NSPC implementation and of outcome-oriented activities will be shared. Each of us can play a role in highlighting the importance of conservation to others and sharing what we have learnt about the strategy and outcome news stories as they become available.

Numerous environmental entities, bodies and individuals are involved in driving the activities of this living and dynamic document, and the successful implementation of the strategy outcomes. Through collaborative efforts we can and will make a difference to safeguard biodiversity for all.

The power of collaboration: #greeningcecilia

Written by Catherine Clulow

We wanted to share this inspiring story to encourage action and involvement in making a difference, because each and every one of us can.

Earlier this year, a BotSoc member, Paul Cartmel contacted The Botanical Society of South Africa with an exciting idea. Here’s the overview of his story: he decided the traffic and commute to work was not all that pleasant and took up cycling to work when feasible. Somewhere along the line he had a thought to track his travel and put aside R1/km to give back to the environment, another individual sponsored him as well. The long and the short of it, this small initiative landed Paul with a few thousand rands which he then offered to donate to the BotSoc to be directed at planting trees in the Cecilia Forest area, an area Paul and friends and family particularly enjoy frequenting.

Paul Cartmel, BotSoc member: “ With global population growth being an exponential problem, we need exponential solutions. Raising funds for this initiative as a Capetonian was a no-brainer, as a nature lover it’s great to give back and we hope to inspire others to contribute to the solutions too. It’s exciting to be active, to get a feel for and be involved in the tree planting and I look forward to showing my children these trees one day.”

And it’s that simple, that’s how it all started. One keen member, one individual with an idea and passion and the initiative spiraled from there. BotSoc engaged with Table Mountain National Park, who manage the area, and planning began. Further funds were donated to the cause and partners and volunteers came on board to join in.

Reliance Compost donated compost and some trees. Funds were used to purchase over 600 indigenous trees, mainly from the Kirstenbosch production nursery, but others were received from the Reliance nursery as well as another local nursery.

Great people, partnerships and passion made it all possible and on Wednesday 22 June 2016 over 60 individuals from different organisations and walks of life came together and worked side by side to plant over 600 indigenous trees in the Cecilia Forest area of the Table Mountain National Park.

Anthony Hitchcock, Nursery Manager and horticulturist at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: “Great to be working with SANParks and BotSoc to restore the natural vegetation on the slopes of Table Mountain.”

Staff members from SANParks; BotSoc; SANBI Kirstenbosch;  Reliance Compost;  New Media Labs; together with volunteers from Miss Earth South Africa; friends and family members and even some hikers who stumbled upon the event, worked together planting trees for the future. Dirty hands, smiling faces, warmed hearts were all evident in that valley and that’s the power of collaboration.

Restoring the area to its original vegetation composition of Fynbos and forest and the clearing of alien invasive  trees such as gums and pines are an ongoing focus of the SANParks teams. Initiatives such as this lend a helping hand towards making a difference. I think this was an awesome project, don’t you?

If you’ve been inspired by this story, please share it with  others too and consider following our blog. To find out how you too can become a BotSoc member, click here, we’d love to have you join the BotSoc family.

The BotSoc mission reads below and this initiative speaks directly to fulfilling it.

BotSoc’s mission: To win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa, for the benefit and sharing of all.

This project also links directly to Targets of the South African National Strategy for Plant Conservation  and we are so proud of working in collaboration with others in support of achieving these goals. Read more about the National Strategy for Plant Conservation here.

We hope this story brightened your day and inspires you too to take action for the environment.

Until next time…