UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Lubombo: A New Space for Dialogue and Nature Conservation

With funding from the German Commission for UNESCO, Eswatini’s National Commission for UNESCO implemented a project with multiple impacts: energy-saving stoves, information campaigns, fences and new spaces for more inclusive exchange benefit the local population, not only conservation.

The programme

The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.

All 22 projects

Lubombo is the first Biosphere Reserve in the Kingdom of Eswatini. The country is a landlocked state bordered by South Africa to the north, west and south and Mozambique to the east. The Lubombo region is the largest of the four administrative regions of Eswatini, roughly covering 35 percent of the country's territory. The region has the second smallest population in the country. It has a high level of biodiversity, including a number of important populations of globally threatened species such as the black rhino. Economic activities in the region are mainly focused on the cultivation and processing of sugar cane, with all the country's sugar factories located in the lowveld part of Lubombo, which is the main contributor to the country's GDP.

Restrictions due to the pandemic

The pandemic has exacerbated the already high unemployment rate in Lubombo. The rural communities in the Lubombo region are therefore in despair as hunger and crime are on the rise. The impact on the adjacent nature reserves is an increase of marijuana cultivation, indiscriminate deforestation of sensitive riverine vegetation, and poaching of endangered species such as the protected red duiker.

Remedy through improved stoves, fences and dialogue

The project, funded by the German Commission for UNESCO, supported both nature conservation in the biosphere reserve and the local population. In order to reduce wood extraction from the forests, tree seedlings, tree nursery training and resource-saving stoves were provided. A new fence line between the community's grazing areas and the core area of the biosphere reserve, which is under strict protection, reduces anthropogenic encroachment in the protected area.

The biosphere reserve centre which was built as part of the project creates a new space for public events. In this way, the local population can exchange and be better informed, for example about hygiene measures or nature conservation activities, and can be better involved in the management of the biosphere reserve. The construction of the fence line and the biosphere centre was organised in such a way that employment and income primarily benefited the region itself.

The consortium

On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.

The International Relief Fund

The project

  • Site: Lubombo
  • Country: Eswatini
  • Type of Site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • Year of inscription: 2019


Website of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere programme

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