South African Hope Spots are unique

BY SUPPLIED - NOVEMBER 3, 2014

Ikhaya Lethemba – The Hope of Hope

South African Hope Spots are unique and are fully people orientated and driven by communities of caring people drawn from all sectors of society. The Ikhaya Lethemba (The Hope of Hope) initiative addresses critically important issues particular to South Africa and is totally inclusive, aiming to harness the power of people by involving them in positive action.

In SA, where so many impoverished people depend upon the seas for their livelihoods and where so many people would like to make a difference, but are unsure what to do, the Hope Spots can provide answers. Mission Blue defines Hope Spots as special conservation areas that are critical to the health of the ocean, in SA Hope Spots focus more on the human needs and their role in providing a healthier environment for themselves than on simply conservation, hence the term Ikhaya lethemba.

“South African Hope Spots are people-oriented conservation areas in which individuals and communities are asked to make a positive difference to their own coastal and marine environments,” Dr Tony Ribbink, CEO of Sustainable Seas Trust, the NGO facilitating the roll out of the international Hope Spot initiative in SA, said.

SA Hope Spots are inclusive

SA Hope Spots are inclusive, encouraging everyone who uses the sea, whether recreationally, for commercial purposes or because their survival depends upon the sea to be part of the Hope Spot. In planning and developing Hope Spots the inclusiveness draws in everyone so that each stakeholder is given an opportunity to play a positive role in their space. Wisdom and understanding are necessary to ensure sustainability and these need to be based on top quality research.

The sustainability and success of Hope Spots is dependent upon them having robust educational programmes that reach everyone and promote understanding and pride in the Hope Spot of which they are part.

It is absolutely essential in the inclusive approach to ensure that businesses embrace the blue and green economies as well as become conscious of the environmental context in which they operate. Fortunately, business communities in the Hope Spots are embracing the Hope Spot concepts, particularly where the Business Chambers are playing a leadership role.

The inclusivity ensures that there is a role for all players: academia, government, business, NGOs, societies, clubs, schools, general public and more. It is clear, however, that the central institutional role resides with government, especially as parks and reserves are their specific mandate.

Education Centres & Education Trust Fund

A vision for every SA Hope Spot is that, in time, it will have a Sustainable Education and Skills Centre for Employment (SEAS Centres for Employment), which are totally green buildings in which top class education and training takes place for all, but particularly underprivileged children. Part of the package in developing the Hope Spots is to launch an Educational Trust in December 2014.

The success of Hope Spots depends upon them reaching all stakeholders and helping them to understand their environment, take a pride in their Hope Spot and assume an ownership, especially of their own positive actions.

The education trusts are especially important in helping impoverished coastal communities as they will help alleviate poverty, promote food security and sustainability through education of coastal communities as well as finding alternative skills and developing sustainable livelihoods.

Hope Spots bridge gaps

Hope Spots draw researchers, who were working in isolation, together under the Hope Spot banner and consolidate and share their findings with the public, municipalities, businesses, schools.

Recognizing that the currency of researchers is to publish peer reviewed papers and produce top class graduates, a role for Hope Spots is to translate data into forms that can be used by stakeholders. Similarly, it seems that nearly all users of the seas and coasts are “citizen scientists” or would like to be citizen scientists. Once again, the Hope Spot NGOs can be the bridge between the data collected by the public and the institutions managing and sharing those data.

The manner in which Hope Spots, working through SST, will translate information into useable forms will be by producing well illustrated readable books, provide content and illustrations for educational books giving a local focus while remaining completely in-line with the curriculum (CAPS); use radio, educational films and where possible television; produce popular articles and use educational plays and activities on action days; and update and involve the media in all events and activities.

SA Hope Spots are a Forum for Positive Collaboration

Hope Spots are not Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or reserves, but are areas in which people can contribute to positively improve the environment. All the SA Hope Spots either abut or include MPAs or marine reserves and this enables people to work more closely with the government authorities to help meet local, provincial and national goals.

Where ever one involves the public in issues of conservation there are dichotomies. On the one hand there are the conservation enthusiasts and volunteers. On the other, those to whom conservation and sustainability are an anathema and the words 'environmental protection' are even worse. Many of those who are antagonistic towards conservation issues are the communities who see steps to protect nature as steps to take away their livelihoods.

In the South African description of Hope Spots, the words conservation, sustainability and protection hardly feature; rather the emphasis is on encouraging people to play positive roles in improving their environment for themselves. The Hope Spots aim to provide a forum for positive collaboration. To many the rift between fishermen and authorities seems intractable, but Hope Spots do offer an alternative to what seem to be intractable problems, especially if positive lessons from elsewhere in Africa might be applied within South African Hope Spots.

To harness the power of people there is a need to promote awareness, education and importantly, involve as many people as possible in positive actions. Through such activities people better understand, begin to care and know. Once people care, communities of caring people develop and a positive ethic of caring action develops.

Photo caption: Six SA HOPE Spots to be launched in December 2014. They are Algoa Bay; Aliwal Shoal; Cape Whale Coast; False Bay; Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.