Momentum for Change Karoo Riparian Ecosystem Restoration Project

Focus area: Adaptation
Location: Loxton, South Africa
Established: March 2007

The Karoo Riparian Ecosystem Restoration Project is a project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Riverine Rabbit Programme (EWT-RRP). Its main objectives are to:

 - Restore natural riparian vegetation along seasonal rivers in the Karoo in order to restore ecosystem health (ecosystem services and processes) and improve resilience to climate change;
- Develop a model of ecosystem-based adaptation which could be replicated and lead to landscape level climate change adaptation nationally;
- Integrate riparian ecosystem restoration with sustainable land management principles and socio-economic upliftment of local urban communities;
- Facilitate the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into local government outlooks and perspectives;
-Improve the capacity and understanding of local Karoo communities and authorities to the need and means to adapt to climate change.  

Mitigation / Adaptation

By restoring the integrity of riverine corridors, Karoo communities of plants, people (urban and rural) and animals can be buffered against the impacts of climate change, particularly critical given the arid nature of the region. Through a) intensive soil and water conservation techniques; b) re-establishing vegetation; and c) partnering with farmers to improve sustainable management of riparian systems, the activity aims to restore cover, biodiversity, productivity and carbon cycles in these zones. By providing employment opportunities and skills development, the activity is harnessing the constructive role ecosystem restoration can play in enhancing not only system resilience, but also human livelihoods and dignity.

The Indigenous Karoo Plant Nursery, established in cooperation with the Ubuntu Municipality, as the first phase of this activity, now has the capacity to produce in excess of 3000 seedlings from a range of indigenous Karoo riparian species per year. Propagation techniques have been refined and methodologies have been shared through knowledge exchanges with the Agricultural and Conservation Government Departments as well as with civil society.

Active climate change intervention in the form of restoration technologies (soil conservation techniques, seeding and planting of indigenous riparian plants) in riparian areas undergoing restoration include:
-Extensive micro-catchment (pit) excavations to slow runoff and retain moisture;
-Soil stabilization through erosion controls;
-Re-planting of degraded denuded areas with nursery-propagated plant species;
-Seeding of degraded areas to encourage vegetation recover;
-Exclusion of livestock to allow for recovery;
-Maintenance of restoration areas (primarily erosion controls);
-Monitoring of restoration success;
-Adaptive management techniques as determined by weather and monitoring results.


Two communities are engaged in the activity: The Karoo farming community, on whose land restoration activities take place; and the impoverished urban community in Loxton, for whom employment is created during restoration work and at the Nursery.

The farming community was engaged through the Biodiversity Stewardship process; a mechanism that supports the wise use and management of natural resources and biodiversity, and the ecosystem services they provide, through voluntary legal agreements between private/communal landowners/users and provincial conservation authorities. As such pro-active measures are taken within the agricultural sector, which is both a contributor to, and vulnerable to climate change, to boost climate change resilience. The EWT-RRP was instrumental in establishing four Riverine Rabbit Conservancies in the Karoo, in partnership with provincial authorities.

As restoration is a labor -intensive process requiring skills development, the project contributes to providing socio-economic opportunities for the impoverished communities of the towns of the Karoo. In-service training is provided to develop the relevant skills at the EWT -RRP's Indigenous Karoo Plant Nursery, as well as in the field at restoration sites, thereby creating employment and skills development in impoverished urban communities with otherwise limited employment opportunities.

Women are trained in indigenous Karoo plant propagation, including aspects such as plant identification, seed collection, and transplanting methodologies. These are all part of the specific skill set required for the successful functioning of the Nursery (mostly transferable to general plant nurseries).

Potential for scaling-up and replication

The activity has the potential to develop a cost-effective model to do ecosystem-level restoration using the same methodology, but at a broader scale and with benefits clearly demonstrated.

The proposed up scaling and consolidation of the current project will facilitate:
-Ecosystem based adaptation in the Karoo;
-Improved integrated water resources management, which is critical in terms of climate change for South Africa;
-Restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems resilience;
-Potential for biodiversity offsets which will facilitate more sustainable and biodiversity-friendly development nationally;
-Potential for Payment for Ecological Services system in the long term;
-Improved sustainable practices in the agricultural sectors;
-Improving livelihoods of the relevant communities;
-Development of a better understanding and pro-active buy-in by selected stakeholders (public and private) of the strategic importance of ecosystem-based adaptation for sustainable development and of its practical implementation in a cost-effective manner.

Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.