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Networking people and nature in the city: inspiration, issues and challenges

21 / 05 / 2007, Eldis Biodiversity

This booklet discusses the work being done by Cape Flats Nature to build a pioneering partnership that tests, experiments and develops an alternative, social nature conservation practice in impoverished urban areas. It aims to stir up and then distil ideas among conservators, planners, health workers, housing officials, social activists, community leaders, and anyone else with a passion for people, development and/or the environment. It is divided into four sections.
1. The initial section introduces the Cape Flats Nature projects, which are working to build good practices in sustainable management of City nature areas in ways that benefit surrounding communities, particularly townships where incomes are low and living conditions are poor. 2. The second section looks at their urban community partnership and its six key features:

formal and informal networks
relationships with people in surrounding communities
responsiveness to the unique situations of each site’s context
integrating site in community
tangible benefits for neighbouring communities, such as access to environmental education, unlocking job opportunities, and creating safe, beautiful spaces for recreation
action inspires action, where people are encouraged to act, rather than relying on formal governance.

3. The third section discusses the concept that the Cape Flats Nature is a partnership, strategically supported by the founding institutions through a project advisory group. These institutions are the City of Cape Town, the South African Biodiversity Institute, the Table Mountain Fund, and the botanical society of South Africa. There are four key features of this partnership:

the Cape Flats Nature project is deliberately located within the City’s policy and strategy frameworks
it catalyses funds for employment of conservators at its pilot sites
it has a complicated relationship with the City, as it is partially constituted by it, whilst also serving as an intervention into it 
champions inside and outside the partnership provide critical support and leverage to the project.

4. The fourth section looks at conservation partnerships that have two key features:

it is a learning partnership, drawing on its won experience and the experience of conservationists more broadly in further developing a people-centred approach to urban conservation
it is rooted within the nature conservation community, which is key for mainstreaming a people-centred practice and a building new generation of black and women urban conservators.

The booklet finishes by reiterating the need for conservation to involve people from all sectors, giving plans for future work within other urban areas, whilst consolidating the work that is already being done in Cape Town

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