Minister Edna Molewa launches Kwelera National Botanical Garden

OCTOBER 1, 2014

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, on Tuesday officially opened the Kwelera National Botanical Garden in East London.

The Kwelera National Botanical Garden becomes South Africa’s tenth Botanical Garden, and the first in the Eastern Cape. It will be managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) which manages nine other  national botanical gardens spread across six provinces within South Africa.

At the event, Minister Molewa also announced that work is currently underway to establish a new national botanical garden in Limpopo. Like the Kwelera Garden, it will also form part of SANBI’s Garden Expansion Strategy.

The Kwelera (derived from the Khoikhoi word ‘Goerecha’ meaning ‘many aloes) National Botanical Garden met the criteria used by SANBI and will, amongst other functions, provide an additional nature based and scientific tourism attraction for the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, while the greater East London area will play a significant role in promoting biodiversity education to surrounding communities.

The garden is managed through a partnership by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and SANBI.

Minister Molewa lauded this partnership and highlighted that, “It is the first time in our country’s history that a national botanical garden is being managed through a partnership arrangement; in this case between SANBI and the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency. This venture has been the realization of the common vision we both share, to work together for the conservation of the environment, for current and future generations.”

She explained that, “The garden will be established in 2 phases. Today we mark the launch of the first phase, which is the proclamation of 160 ha portion of state land that formerly was part of the Kwelera Nature Reserve - into the natural portion of the Kwelera National Botanical Garden.”

The National Botanical Garden will be classified under the international definitions of botanical gardens as a ‘conservation garden’, which will contain, or have associated areas of natural vegetation. This is in addition to cultivated collections that will be established on land adjacent to the coastal dune forest of the Reserve.

Phase 2, which SANBI is currently working on, will include offices, research facilities, an education centre, visitor facilities, pathways, nursery facilities, boardwalks and demonstration gardens showcasing the breadth and diversity of the Eastern Cape’s botanical riches.

It is hoped that the land will be acquired by SANBI in 2015 and incorporated into the existing Kwelera National Botanical Garden. It is envisaged that the development of these facilities will attract and host thousands of visitors to appreciate the beauty of this portion of the South-east African coastline.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has made funds available to SANBI for the establishment of the garden, including a project allocation through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The funds will allow the creation of temporary local jobs and opportunities for skills development amongst unemployed individuals, particularly women and youth in the surrounding areas. There will also be job opportunities for 20 people who will maintain the garden in its pristine condition.

"We are also laying the groundwork for the socio-economic upliftment of communities; and their advancement into the mainstream economy. Because all conservation efforts will ultimately remain short-sighted unless they are aligned with principles of sustainable development," said Minister Molewa at the event.

Photo caption: Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.