Feasibility Study: North Eastern Cape Grassland Conservation and Development Area Project

Feasibility Study: North Eastern Cape Grassland Conservation and Development Area Project

South Africa

Client South African National Parks
Client Sectors Government
Services Option analysis, Spatial analysis using GIS, Stakeholder (community and expert) consultation, Macroeconomic and cost benefit analysis



South African National Parks (SANParks), in partnership with the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency and Joe Gqabi District Municipality, commissioned a feasibility study for the establishment of a Conservation and Development Area (C&DA) in the North Eastern Cape, due to a need identified by the South African Government to formally conserve a greater portion of the Grassland Biome. The project was funded by the European Union Local Economic Development Programme, facilitated through the Thina Sinako Local Economic Development Programme.

Our Role

SANParks appointed Golder Associates Africa (Pty) Ltd. to undertake a Feasibility Assessment for the establishment of a C&DA within the Joe Gqabi DistrictMunicipality (formerly the uKhahlamba District Municipality) in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg.

Firstly, a Pre-Feasibility Assessment was carried out to evaluate three potential areas for the development of a C&DA. The North Eastern Cape area (NEC) was found to be the most feasible for the establishment of a C&DA, based on the selected criteria. Natural capital scores for the NEC area were high, given the value of the area’s ecosystem goods and services (condition, size, supply and demand), as well as the potential tourism value of the area.

The second task of the project was to conduct a Case Study Review of different approaches that have been taken towards establishment of protected areas, and the lessons learnt from previous processes.

The project team then assembled and analysed spatial layers representing biophysical, socio-economic and macro-economic data within a Geographical Information System. Additional important features such as scenic viewpoints, as yet unidentified areas of biodiversity priority, as well as areas of culture-based or recreational tourism importance were included in the analysis. This process included both desktop spatial analyses by the project team, as well as interviews with relevant local and other experts. Following the spatial analysis, the study looked at the current status and trends of the tourism industry. While national tourism trends indicate an inclination towards a more urban market, provincial trends for the Eastern Cape show that this province largely attracts tourists seeking nature-based/outdoor experiences. The estimated macro-economic impact of the construction and operational phases of the proposed development was then estimated.

The team found that, given the conservation goals of the investment and the assumptions used to develop the macroeconomic scenarios, the establishment of a C&DA in the North Eastern Cape High Altitude Grasslands is feasible, from an economic, social and environmental perspective. Following a more thorough engagement with landowners, a more precise location for the C&DA can be identified, and establishment mechanisms defined, in conjunction with these owners to ensure an agreement which suits each of the parties concerned.