Recently, the Vision 2040 Team organized two engaging sessions in Gqeberha and Knysna, where a diverse group of stakeholders came together to discuss the future of SANParks in 2040. During these thought-provoking gatherings, participants shared their valuable perspectives and ideas, demonstrating their passion for nature conservation and sustainable tourism development.
The discussions revolved around the importance of local communities, with stakeholders highlighting the need to create stronger connections and a sense of ownership among residents. Suggestions such as developing mini parks within communities and aquaculture fish farms were made to foster greater involvement and appreciation for nature. The stakeholders emphasized the significance of educating young minds about nature and conservation from an early age, proposing educational programs for grade 1 learners from outside parks and extending the existing kids-in-parks initiatives.
Job creation and capacity building emerged as pivotal aspects of sustainable tourism development. Stakeholders emphasized the need to invest in capacity building to empower local communities and enhance job opportunities through eco-tourism initiatives.
The future of tourism products within SANParks also sparked interest, with stakeholders advocating for a more diverse range of offerings. Suggestions included incorporating virtual tourism experiences, leveraging technology to provide unique interactions with nature, and involving tourists directly in conservation efforts to deepen their appreciation and involvement.
Stakeholders also emphasized the need for universal access throughout the parks, not just in specific areas, emphasizing inclusivity and access for individuals with disabilities. They also proposed the implementation of a credit system, rewarding visitors for adopting eco-friendly practices and participating in conservation initiatives.
On the social and cultural engagement front, stakeholders highlighted the need to instill a sense of ownership and awareness among communities regarding their role in conservation efforts. Community-level education on nature, conservation, and skill development was deemed essential, and stakeholders suggested integrating these aspects into daily teaching for children.
Promoting Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) was emphasized as a key strategy to strengthen collaboration between SANParks and local communities. Additionally, stakeholders underscored the importance of fostering respect, good relationships, and fairness without racial classification.
Preserving knowledge and cultural heritage was considered crucial for the sustainability of conservation efforts. Stakeholders encouraged learning from older generations and imparting this knowledge to the youth of 2040, ensuring continuity and a deeper understanding of the parks’ histories and significance.
The next Vision 2040 Social Stakeholder sessions are planned in the Northern Cape and around Cape Town in August, and we look forward to the insightful discussions that will take place.