Biodiversity stewardship as a mechanism for adaptation to climate change


In South Africa, the Chief Executive Officer of Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), Bandile Mkhize, has announced that 100,000 ha (1,000 sq km) has come under the Biodiversity Stewardship Program. It also seems likely that another 300,000 ha will come under the same program – discussions are underway with landowners. KwaZulu-Natal is a province of South Africa. Prior to 1994, the territory now known as KwaZulu-Natal was made up of the province of Natal and the homeland of KwaZulu.

Biodiversity Stewardship as a mechanism for adaptation to climate change

It has become a priority in conservation organizations across South Africa to develop projects that will ensure the maintenance of an environment that can enable biodiversity to adapt to changing climate. The Biodiversity Stewardship Program, begun by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and now managed by Wildlands Conservation Trust, aims to achieve just that by securing core conservation areas and employing Biodiversity Stewardship as a tool for improving the conservation management of these sites.

How it works

Stewardship processes identify land of critical importance for biodiversity conservation and/or the provision of ecosystem services and encourage private and communal landowners to engage in biodiversity conservation and other sustainable land use practices. They maintain ownership of their land, receive guidance and management assistance, and are supported to diversify their land-based activities to create sustainable livelihoods, all the while protecting the country’s unique biodiversity against the threat of climate change.

KZN is home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Currently, at least 80 percent of the important biodiversity lies outside formally protected areas, on privately or communally owned land. The Biodiversity Stewardship Program helps to secure some of these areas for long-term biodiversity conservation while maintaining the productivity of the landscape for landowners as well. A further, central aim is the creation of a network of protected areas linked as corridors across the landscape in order to improve the ability of species to adapt to climate change. Biodiversity Stewardship involves formal, legally binding agreements with landowners for a minimum of 30 years.