250 peo­ple walk 20km for wildlife

The New Age (Free State) - - NORTH WEST NEWS - ELFAS TORERAI elfast@the­newage.co.za

ABOUT 250 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in a 20km walk from Legkraal to Molorwe in the Pi­lanes­burg Na­tional Park to raise aware­ness on the need for trans­for­ma­tion in the wildlife sec­tor.

The par­tic­i­pants in­cluded ru­ral, en­vi­ron­ment and agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment MEC Man­ketsi Tl­hape, head of depart­ment Poncho Mokaila and other se­nior man­agers in the depart­ment, friends of Me­bala Ya Rona, en­vi­ron­men­tal clubs and in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

The walk pre­ceded a two-day Me­bala Ya Rona con­fer­ence at the Bak­gatla Re­sort in the Pi­lanes­berg Na­tional Park.

The depart­ment is us­ing the Me­bala Ya Rona ini­tia­tive to drive the pro­vin­cial govern­ment’s five con­cretes meant to prop up the North West econ­omy.

Tl­hape said the quest to re­brand, re­po­si­tion and re­new the prov­ince would suc­ceed through the Me­bala Ya Rona ini­tia­tive.

She said her depart­ment would like to cre­ate much-needed aware­ness of the prov­ince’s her­itage park cor­ri­dor, its rich bio­di­ver­sity re­source, the eco­tourism po­ten­tial and the pres­ti­gious cul­ture of com­mu­ni­ties around it.

In her 2017-18 bud­get speech ear­lier this year, Tl­hape said the her­itage walk would be used to bring about a com­mu­nity-based eco­tourism drive that would not only ex­pand the value of the lo­cal econ­omy but act as a sig­nif­i­cant buildup to the Me­bala Ya Rona bio­di­ver­sity con­fer­ence.

Speak­ing be­fore the her­itage walk, Tl­hape said the ini­tia­tive was part of the depart­ment’s ef­forts to “work in part­ner­ship with the in­dus­try and the gen­eral pub­lic to find mea­sures and tools for ef­fec­tive trans­for­ma­tion of our bi­o­log­i­cal cap­i­tal into goods and ser­vices for so­cio and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment”.

She said trans­for­ma­tion in the wildlife sec­tor was a ne­ces­sity and had since been iden­ti­fied as the cor­ner­stone for eco­nomic growth and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

“As one of the most bi­o­log­i­cally di­verse coun­tries, this has posed a chal­lenge to the coun­try to es­tab­lish mech­a­nisms in which its bio­di­ver­sity can be sus­tain­ably used to con­trib­ute to­wards ad­dress­ing the vi­cious cir­cle of the three eco­nomic ills fac­ing the coun­try, which are un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity.

“This ul­ti­mately con­trib­utes to­wards the eco­nomic growth of the prov­ince,” she said.

Bio­di­ver­sity man­age­ment di­rec­tor at the depart­ment, Jonathan Denga, said he was de­lighted at the turnout for the her­itage walk and the sup­port from stake­hold­ers rel­e­vant to bio­di­ver­sity trans­for­ma­tion.

“The weather was not impressive, but we man­aged and the jour­ney has been ex­cit­ing,” he said.

Tl­hape was among those who com­pleted the 20km walk.

Par­tic­i­pants were in high spir­its and said they were look­ing for­ward to the 2018 walk that was said to be a stag­ger­ing 128km long. At the end of the walk at Molorwe, those who man­aged to cross the fin­ish­ing line earned the in­au­gu­ral Me­bala Ya Rona her­itage walk medals.

Plans are un­der way to hold a sec­ond Me­bala Ya Rona bio­di­ver­sity con­fer­ence at Bak­gatla Re­sort in Pi­lanes­berg from Oc­to­ber 26-28.

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