Talks on the Succulent Karoo

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP), a global initiative in support of conservation and sustainable development in biodiversity hotspots around the world, will next week hold its annual SKEP Partners’ Conference. The succulent karoo is one of the world’s hotspots that spans along the western parts of South Africa and southern Namibia. The Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme evolved as a bi-national (South Africa and Namibia) initiative that seeks to develop conservation as a land use with objectives to focus on conservation and development investment on those areas that provide the greatest benefits to biodiversity in the short and long term. For Namibia, the priority area is the Sperrgebiet. The partners conference aims to bring together all SKEP partners to review and share lessons learnt in implementing the SKEP strategy since 2003 and also sign a memorandum of cooperation between Namibia and South Africa, and a Memorandum of Understanding between partners. SKEP projects in Namibia are related to conservation of biodiversity along the south-western part of Namibia in LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz, Rosh Pinah and Sperrgebiet. Some of the projects under the programme include the Aus Information Tourism centre and data collection in the Sperrgebiet. Amongst others, the programme aims to improve knowledge on the biodiversity and Succulent Karoo ecosystem in critical areas for conservation management, linking improved livelihoods and improved natural resource management in the Succulent Karoo, promoting public-private partnerships in land and natural resource management for conservation and sustainable livelihoods in the Succulent Karoo, and create awareness and disseminate information on biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods and the importance of the Succulent Karoo. The conference, which starts in Cape Town, South Africa on May 3, will discuss SKEP projects in South Africa and Namibia and the progress they have made so far and also look into their future. The Succulent Karoo hotspot covers 102 691 square kilometres of desert. It has about 1 700 species of leaf succulents, and this dominance is unique among the world’s desert; and 140 species of stem succulents, such as seasonal bulbs and annuals that display magnificent spring blooms in the open spaces between the shrubs. The conference will also review progress that has been made so far, provide a critical review of implementation to date, derive key lessons, identify gaps and generate ideas and make recommendations to Namibian and South African implementing committees. Some 150 participants will be drawn from implementing agencies, partner agencies, project executants and donors from Namibia and South Africa.