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South Africa’s Garden Route Declared As UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

First Posted: Jun 19, 2017 09:39 AM EDT

The scenic Garden Route in South Africa’s Western Cape province has reportedly been declared as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. According to officials from the African nation, the new title would go a long way toward in helping revitalize the region as an important tourist attraction.

"The positive response to the application to declare the Garden Route a biosphere reserve is most encouraging, not just for us, as a country, but also for the people of the region," Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molema said, as reported by India Today. The Garden Route is among the prime tourism regions in South Africa. It is an area rich in marine, coastal and terrestrial, ecosystems where conservation of the rich biodiverse region is ably reconciled with sustainable use practices. An official launch of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve (GRBR) will take place in the later part of this year.

The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, located within the Cape Floristic biodiversity hot spot region, is the ninth such reserve to be declared in South Africa. Linked to the conservation-related activities, the development objectives of the GRBR are to promote growth in entrepreneurial endeavors, training and employment, contribution to poverty alleviation and the creation of sustainable livelihood options for disadvantaged communities. It will also encourage sustainable biodiversity-based businesses and their contribution to the green economy on the Garden Route.

According to SA News, at present the government-sponsored projects in the area include Working on Fire, Working for Wetlands and Working for Water, all of which are involved in fire management and alien vegetation eradication. Entrepreneurs or small businesses can avail the vegetation cleared to make charcoal, crafts or furniture. It can also be sold as firewood to create economic opportunities.

Incidentally, the announcement came even as rehabilitation and relief efforts are continuing in one of the municipalities in the Garden Route area in the wake of a destructive fire. The disaster affected a large portion of the town Knysna and left hundreds of inhabitants homeless.

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