The Western Cape Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) Project

Posted on the 30th September 2021

The Western Cape Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) Project

July saw the launch of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust-funded project titled, “Recognising, assessing and reporting Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) in the Western Cape. This project is being led by BirdLife South Africa, in collaboration with Conservation Outcomes, CapeNature, WWF South Africa, Wilderness Foundation Africa, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

Through biodiversity stewardship, South Africa has been highly effective at expanding the conservation estate (comprised of protected and conservation areas), particularly on privately and communally-owned land. Protected areas, such as Nature Reserves and Protected Environments, are legislated under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act of 2003 and are reported nationally and internationally. Conservation areas, however, have not been well recognised and reported in South Africa, and include stewardship conservation models such as Conservation Servitudes and Biodiversity Agreements. The result is that South Africa is under-reporting and falling short of national and international area-based conservation targets e.g.: Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and more recently, the draft CBD Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework targets. The new area-based target calls for 30% of the world’s marine, freshwater and terrestrial spaces to be well-protected and conserved by 2030 through an expanded, well-connected network of protected areas and ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (OECMs).

Only officially defined by the CBD in 2018, an OECM is “a geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in-situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic, and other locally relevant values”. Essentially, OECMs are sites with high biodiversity and ecosystem services value, found outside of the formal protected areas network that provide conservation as an objective, in addition to the site’s foremost land use objectives. OECMs can encompass a range of different approaches to effective and long term conversation, including options currently recognised through biodiversity stewardship. As such, OECMs provide opportunities for growing and strengthening South Africa’s conservation estate by helping to recognise existing efforts towards biodiversity conservation on the global stage, potentially identifying alternative mechanisms to area-based conservation that are not currently being recognised through stewardship, and providing a more enabling environment for private and communal landowners to engage in conservation, allowing for a more inclusive area-based conservation network, all of which contribute to building resilient, integrated, and connected landscapes, which help address issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

This two-year project (2021-2023) is a pilot project and one of the first in South Africa and the world. The project aims to identify and assess potential OECMs in the Western Cape, focusing initially on assessing and reporting existing, qualifying conservation areas, but also engaging a broad range of stakeholders to identify other sectors and land-use types that could be potential OECMs. The project will also look to understand and quantify the capacity and resource requirements needed to assess OECMs in the province, and provide training to key stakeholders to support the assessment and reporting of OECMS in the Western Cape. 


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