By Monica Maroun
The Wildlife Society of South Africa (known as WESSA) is a South African environmental organisation which aims to initiate and support high impact environmental and conservation projects to promote participation in caring for the Earth. For over 90 years they have proactively engaged with the challenges and opportunities presented by our country’s unique natural heritage and the social and economic systems that depend on it.
WESSA is a membership organisation activating a wide range of local conservation initiatives through their membership network of branches and Friends groups.
WESSA is an integral part of the international environmental community: In addition to being the appointed operator in South Africa for five FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) programmes, they are a founder member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and, as a UNESCO partner, are supporting education for sustainable development across the southern African region.
WESSA has become a leading implementer of environmental initiatives Their work includes:
The Tourism Green Coast project was started in 2016 and focussed on a 300km stretch of coastline on South Africa’s Wild Coast.
This project targeted 20 sensitive coastal sites that being utilized for low impact tourism and which include local community members into the tourism operations in the region. Through a partnership with the National Department of Tourism, WESSA placed over 100 previously disadvantaged youth from the region with 30 private tourism operators for a 2-year job placed mentorship. Each of the youth learners also received accredited training in Tourism Guiding and a range of additional entrepreneurship and professional development short courses. The intention of the Tourism Green Coast project was to “Train for Jobs” while supporting sustainable destination development along the Wild Coast. The Green Stewards recently graduated. The graduation for the 118 Green Stewards took place over four days at the end of July 2020.
Kei Mouth was well represented with 10 stewards being hosted by Kei Mouth Guesthouse, Kei Mouth Golf Course, Neptune’s Cove and Kei Mouth Revival.
The WESSA Green Coast award aims to actively promote “wild” beaches along our coastline. These beaches appeal to a specific sector of the tourism market who are looking for experiences in adventure, outdoor living and nature tourism along our coastline.
The Green Coast award has been developed to recognise those rural coastal sites which are managed according to standardised criteria and able to maintain a consistent improvement of conditions at the site.
Green Coast sites aim to protect one of three main coastal themes namely; sensitive habitats, species and cultural heritage. A Green Coast site is not just another stretch of protected coastline but rather a platform for collaboration, innovation and local public participation.
The Green Coast award is an excellent opportunity for local citizens to act and become involved in efforts to improve and protect our incredible coastline. The objectives of Green Coast are two-fold. Firstly, it aims to provide a system for sustainable management of sensitive coastal spaces and secondly, to engage local citizens to become involved in management of these unique sites.
The award has been developed in a way that will allow for adequate monitoring and protection of the site, whilst also allowing for the development of low impact coastal tourism, should there be potential for this. The vision for the Green Coast award process is that a local organisation/s will partner with the local municipality in helping to apply for and sustain the award which will be made on an annual basis.
The Green Coast criteria include aspects of basic ecological monitoring which allow for the setup of exciting new citizen science initiatives. The Green Coast sites with their unique habitat, species and cultural heritage also provide ideal locations for outdoor learning and exemplary environmental education activities.
The Green Stewards had a number of requirements to meet during their two year mentorship programme, with one being to help establish the site where they were placed as a Green Coast stie. The Kei Mouth Stewards began this work and their groundwork has been invaluable in assisting Kei Mouth with applying for the Green Coast Award.
To become a Green Coast Award site, Kei Mouth, and all sites had to go through and initial assessment phase where specified criteria needed to be met.
The application process included a number of steps, these being:
Kei Mouth Revival Group and Chrysalis Nature College have spear-headed the Kei mouth application.
Once all of the above was completed and the application submitted a site visit was conducted to assess the site. Thereafter our application went to the national jury to make the final decision.
We will now have signage and a flag put up to identify Kei Mouth as a Green Coast Award site. There will be an official launch of Kei Mouth and four other Green Coast Award sites. We will have to re-apply for this status next year.
In order to keep our status we are required to meet the initial requirements and:
The work has begun
Our monitoring plan states that we will conduct our monitoring surveys four times a year during the spring low tides of the solstices and the equinoxes. As September is an equinox month, we conducted our first official survey on the 16th and 17th of September 2020.
In the same week on the 19th of September, opportunity presented itself once again. Saturday 19 September was international Coastal Cleanup day. We decided that it was a perfect opportunity to kickstart our Beach cleanups. We invited all Kei Mouth residents and extended a special invite to the children of iKwili Primary School. Our event was more successful than we could have imagined, with over 50 primary school children attending and another 20 Kei Mouth residents.