Governance in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves Project Activities

Collaborative Conservation Governance in Working Landscapes: A Contextual Analysis of two South African Biosphere Reserves in the Boland Mountain Complex.

The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme has been earmarked as one of the most promising ways of tackling the triple challenge of the Anthropocene and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, it may have the potential to make positive contributions to one of the most troubling conservation challenges of our time – winning spaces for large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes.

This study aims to assess the interpretation and implementation of the MAB Programme in two South African Biosphere Reserves (BRs) and explore how BRs as landscape level collaborative initiatives can support Cape leopard conservation. Moreover this study is informed by two objectives. First, to understand how the chosen governance strategy and structure of two South African BRs have helped to achieve a context appropriate interpretation and actioning of MAB in the landscape. Second, to understand how landscape level collaborative conservation initiatives support leopard conservation across multi-use landscapes and especially in unprotected environments.

This study takes on a mixed methods approach in which qualitative data takes priority and quantitative data is used for support in an embedded multiple-case study design. The sampling techniques used include purposive sampling and snowball sampling from the original respondents. Methods of data gathering will include a combination of semi-structure interviews (the principal collection method), a review of archival, policy and other documents, and supported by a survey with a mixed methods questionnaire. The qualitative data will be analysed with the use of thematic analysis, the mixed data with qualitative and quantitative content analysis, while the purely quantitative data will be analysed through descriptive statistics (counts and frequency).

This research contributes to the needs for; empirical studies on the MAB itself, which is important for sharing knowledge across the World Network of BRs (WNBR); the need for further research on collaborative initiative in complex contexts; as well as the need for research on conservation of large free-roaming carnivores in working landscapes.

This research is in progress. It is being undertaken as Masters research at the Nelson Mandela University by Mr. Michael Klaver under the supervision of Drs Bianca Currie (NMU), Kaera Coetzer (Wits) and James George Sekonya (NMU).