UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Magaliesberg: Youth-led Community Trail
With the community trail developed and established by unemployed youths, the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve created participatory and encouraging environmental education opportunities as well as sustainable sources of income.
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.
The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve is situated in South Africa between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. It represents the interface between two large African biomes (i.e. habitat communities of animals and plants in a larger geographical area) and the remnants of a third biome: the Central Grassland Plateau, the Sub-Saharan Savannah and the Afro-Montane Forest. As a result, the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve is home to a particularly large variety of flower species as well as numerous other animal and plant species. For example, 46 percent of all bird species that can be found in southern Africa live there.
There are also more than 260,000 people living in the biosphere reserve, who are confronted with a high rate of unemployment and poverty. The most important economic activities in the region include agriculture, mining and tourism.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns have led to many company closures and job losses. Unemployment in the region raised therefore higher than ever before. Especially the youth and young adults were severely affected. Data from the South African Bureau of Statistics shows that the official unemployment rate among the youth (15-34 years) surpassed 46 percent in the first quarter of 2021. As people had to look for alternative ways to secure their livelihoods, the unsustainable use of natural resources in the biosphere reserve had increased tremendously. Examples include increased poaching of wildlife, collection of firewood, harvesting of tree bark for medicinal purposes, and increased grazing of fragile ecosystems. This in turn resulted in further problems such as water pollution, erosion of riverbanks, paths and slopes, and the uncontrolled spread of alien invasive plants.
Remedy through employment and education
With funding from the German Commission for UNESCO, unemployed young people from the village of Majakaneng, located in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve, developed and implemented the educational "Majakaneng Community Trail". They were supported by eco-rangers who had been trained as part of last year's #SOSAfricanHeritage project. The entire community was involved in the conception of the nature trail in order to jointly identify the most pressing environmental problems on site, to understand their causes, and to identify appropriate solutions. In this way, the community trail can promote nature conservation, sustainable land use and environmental education, as well as recreation and responsible tourism in the region.
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.
- Site: Magaliesberg
- Country: South Africa
- Type of Site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
- Year of inscription: 2015