Skip to main content

Biodiversity Stewardship

The objective of biodiversity stewardship is to conserve and manage biodiversity priority areas through voluntary agreements with landowners and communities. This may involve formal protection, management and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship Initiative (LRBSI) is a conservation and developmental initiative formed in partnership between the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the Department of Fisheries Forestry and Environment, and the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development. The LRBSI was established in 2009 and it aims to address simultaneously the critical developmental and environmental challenges faced by South Africa.


Biodiversity stewardship is founded on several principles that are key to successful implementation. These include:

  • Focusing on biodiversity priority areas allows implementers to invest limited resources in the most important areas
  • Requiring voluntary commitment from landowners, both private and communal
  • Foster co-operative governance and the development of partnerships
  • Landowners are the custodians of biodiversity on their land

The Key Role Players are:

  • DEFF  supported by SANBI is responsible for setting national policy, implementation guidelines and providing strategic and implementation support to implementing agencies
  • Landowners - voluntary engagement - individuals, communities, companies or municipalities
  • Provincial conservation Management Authorities each province and SANParks
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) mediators, assist in various assessments and development plans

Over 540,000 ha of land had been secured through the creation of 94 protected areas with long-term security. Another 400,000 ha are in the process of being declared according to the Department of Forestry, Fishery and Environment (DFFE) Protected and Conservation Areas (PACA) Database. More than 540,000 ha of biodiversity stewardship sites have been declared — one-quarter the size of Kruger National Park


There is a strong case and immense benefits of Biodiversity Stewardship such as:

  • A highly cost-effective mechanism for expanding protected areas
  • Effective in multiple-use landscapes and can combine biodiversity protection and sustainable agricultural production
  • Appropriate for a wide variety of landscapes, including agricultural and communal areas
  • Ecological, economic and social benefits
  • Stimulating rural economic development through ecotourism and sustainable natural resource use
  • Supporting job creation and skills development
  • Accessing and developing economic opportunities associated with protected areas

Biodiversity Stewardship Case Studies


Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Wildlife Economy


Biodiversity Stewardship

Protected Areas

Nambiti Private Game Reserve has been proclaimed as a nature reserve, through the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.

Umgano Project

Biodiversity Stewardship


A sustainable community land-use development project focusing on biotrade and forestry.

Umzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme

Biodiversity Stewardship

Ecological Infrastructure

One of South Africa’s most important free-flowing rivers. With its source in the southern Drakensberg near Matatiele, it flows over 400 km to its estuary on the Indian Ocean at Port St Johns.

WWF-SA Water Balance Programme

Ecological Infrastructure

Biodiversity Stewardship

The uMngeni River catchment falls within the Maputaland–Pondoland–Albany biodiversity hotspot and has been identified as part of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Key Biodiversity Area and focuses on ecological infrastructure and restoration.