The Vision 2040 project, aimed at shaping the future of SANParks, has gained momentum as various stakeholder meetings took place in the past two weeks.
A session with government departments on 14 June gathered for an in-depth discussion on their vision for SANParks in 2040. The meeting brought together ten government departments, totalling 30 officials, alongside SANParks representatives. The event was carefully planned to ensure maximum participation and benefit. The stakeholders engaged in a visioning exercise centred around three key themes:
- Biodiversity and Conservation,
- Biodiversity Economy and Transformation,
- and Tourism
Though provisional at this stage, the outcomes shed light on the potential directions for each theme. In the Tourism arena, diversification of offerings emerged as a key priority, highlighting the need for new and innovative experiences. Virtual reality (VR) technology is seen as an opportunity to enhance visitor experiences. A resounding call marked the Transformation theme for tangible actions towards fundamental transformation and ownership shifts. Stakeholders stressed the importance of investing in meaningful collaborations and partnerships to achieve these goals. In the Conservation domain, the hashtag “#fencesmustfall” captured the vision for a more integrated and expansive approach to broader living landscapes, where conservation efforts go beyond traditional boundaries.
On 26 June 2023, something extraordinary happened. In celebration of Youth Day, we held a session in Skukuza, right in the heart of the beautiful Kruger National Park. It was an event filled with hope and promise, where 50 young participants from all walks of life joined a roundtable discussion. We had local youth, Groen Sebenza officers, participants from the Sustainable Schools Programme, Youth Honourary Rangers, and some fantastic special guests from all corners of the country. The diverse gathering sparked some truly inspiring conversations among the youth.
Looking ahead to 2040, the youth shared their vision for a future where consultation, engagement, and information sharing become central to SANParks’ culture. They aspire to see youth actively involved in decision-making processes and empowered to take ownership and responsibility in conservation efforts.
SANParks then hosted three sessions with (what we categorise as) the “social sector”. Participants from local communities, traditional leadership, traditional healers, youth, women and people living with disabilities were in attendance. Various themes emerged, painting a picture of what national parks and park management could look like in 2040. These themes highlight the integration of digital communication, community engagement, conservation, active citizenship, tourism, and collaboration.
Participants agreed that by 2040, parks should embrace the newest technology for communication and prioritise inclusivity and economic benefits through community involvement, responsible practices, and the protection of natural and culturally significant areas. Active citizenship will foster safety and ownership with “Good neighbours making good fences”. Parks could drive economic growth, and stakeholder collaboration will propel conservation, sustainability, and economic development.
While these high-level outcomes represent initial steps in the Vision 2040 project, they set the stage for further discussions and refinement of the visionary statements. The engagement from various stakeholders demonstrates the commitment to collaborative decision-making and a collective effort to shape the future of SANParks.