An assessment of the Giba Gorge special rating area as a biodiversity stewardship practice.
Traditional conservation practices restricted resources to formally Protected Areas leaving biodiversity lying outside Protected Areas with minimal or no formal management. Increasing evidence of significant biodiversity lying outside Protected Areas, even in urban areas has necessitated innovative strategies for conserving biodiversity for human well-being. One such strategy is the use of a ‘Special Rating Area’ (SRA) legislative instrument to raise funds for managing biodiversity on privately owned properties through a pilot project in the Giba Gorge Environmental Precinct (GGEP). The aim of this study is to assess the Giga Gorge SRA as a biodiversity stewardship practice by understanding the processes of open space management and the impact it has had on local communities, ecosystems and adjacent property. The study was conducted involving the GGEP property owners and the Tshelimnyama community members (local community adjacent to the GGEP) comprising the traditional healers and general community members. The study is guided by the political ecology conceptual framework for understanding environmental issues in the GGEP and how socio-political processes at various scales have shaped the GGEP project. In addition, stakeholder theory provides a framework for exploring relationships among GGEP stakeholders and how their interests are managed. The study uses a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach in data collection and analysis. Analysis of data reveals improvement in the quality of ecosystems during the period 2010 to 2012. Secondly, findings reveal unsustainable natural resource uses such as recreational activities and medicinal plant harvesting. Thirdly, the study highlights negative stakeholder perceptions towards management activities resulting from communication breakdown. Fourthly, findings show that majority of the property owners did not find security concerns in the GGEP open space as factors that would restrict their interactions with the open space and other open space users. Lastly, the study reveals that the GGEP project had no impact on property value. This study recommends that the GGEP management develops and implements research based communication strategies for engaging stakeholders in the processes of managing the GGEP project.