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Natural Heritage, Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Livelihoods
in the Maloti Drakensberg Mountains in Southern Africa

The Maloti and Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho and South Africa contain irreplaceable resources: unique but fragile ecosystems that host a high concentration of endemic plant species; places of cultural significance; and important wetland systems that are a vital source of freshwater.

About the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme (MDTP)

The Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme (MDTP) is a collaborative initiative between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. It aims to conserve and sustainably manage the globally significant, natural and cultural heritage of the Maloti and Drakensberg mountains which straddle the 300km border between the two countries. This area stretches across three provinces, namely, the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Free State in South Africa and across the four districts of Butha Buthe, Mokhotlong, Qachas Nek and Quthing in Lesotho. This area constitutes the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area (MDTFCA) which is one of six Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA's) on the borders of the Republic of South Africa and its neighboring states. The broad and overall objective of the MDTP is to facilitate effective collaboration and coordination across district, provincial, international and institutional boundaries in conserving the natural and cultural heritage of the MDTFCA and also contributing to the socio-economic development of the region, particularly, through sustainable tourism.

The key South African institutions involved in this programme include:
the National Department of Environmental Affairs; Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife which is designated as the lead implementing agency; the South African National Parks; the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism; the Free State Department of Tourism, Environment and Economic Affairs; the Kwa-Zulu Natal Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development; and the South African Heritage Resources Agency. A National Coordination Unit plays the critical coordination and facilitatory role within the TFCA arrangement;

Background to the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area (MDTFCA)

The Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area (MDTFCA) straddles the 300km border between Lesotho and South Africa incorporating more than 600km of mountain range, the Maloti's and the Drakensberg Mountains. Of distinct significance is the exceptional biodiversity of the region which includes over 2500 species of flowering plants, about 13% of which are locally endemic. Of equal significance is the cultural heritage in the area which is home to the greatest gallery of rock art in the world. There are over 600 rock art sites painted by the San or Bushmen people who are said to have inhabited this area for more than 4000 years.

Of unparalleled significance as a Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area, is the fact that this area is the most important water catchment area for the two countries. The wetland systems in the area are at the highest altitudes and provide critical water purification and storage services for the people of Lesotho and South Africa. Two of the largest civil engineering projects in Southern Africa, the Tugela-Vaal Scheme and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, carry water from the mountains to the economic powerhouse of Africa - the megalopolis of Johannesburg and the surrounding cities. Despite this significant asset base, the area is increasingly under serious threat from various unsustainable land-use and management systems as well as other forms of encroachments, which calls for more concerted and coordinated efforts to reverse these trends.

The MDTP has, at this stage, gone through two phases of implementation. The initial phase saw funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF)/World Bank (2002 - 2009 which was originally planned to end in 2007) which produced a 20-year conservation and development strategy and the first of a series of 5-year action plans for the area. The second phase was the two-government funded phase (2008 - 2012) which officially draws to a close at the end of December 2012. This phase has provided important insights and lessons for the upcoming third phase which is currently under development.

We expect the official launch of phase 3 to coincide with the launch of our website which is currently being revamped.

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