Finland's key role in building the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve
Finnish Environment Institute and the Central Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and Environment have supported the establishment of a new Biosphere Reserve in North-West Province of South Africa. The designation of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve covering altogether 360 000 hectares area was approved by UNESCO in summer 2014. The experience and knowledge from the co-operation benefits the establishment of the Lake Päijänne biosphere area in Finland.
The governments of South Africa and Finland have a long history of bilateral development cooperation. As a continuation of a long-term development cooperation project in the North-West Province of South Africa, a new project was commenced in May 2010 with the support of the Institutional Cooperation Instrument (ICI) of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. In this project the Finnish Environment Institute and the Central Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and Environment supported the authorities in the North West and Gauteng provinces to establish and manage the Magaliesberg biosphere area to be registered under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme. The partnership also aimed at supporting the establishment process of the Lake Päijänne biosphere area in Finland.
The ICI Project was completed in the end of 2012. During the Project implementation, four professional visits were organised, two to Finland and two to South Africa. During and between those visits, experiences in Biosphere establishment and management were exchanged, criteria for borders and zoning for the Magaliesberg Biosphere were developed, the Biosphere Management Plan was prepared and a Communication Plan and an Environmental Education Plan were elaborated. In addition, training on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was provided to South African partners. A South African local consultant was contracted by the Project to facilitate the consultative process of the planning of the Biosphere Reserve. The Magaliesberg Biosphere Endorsement Ceremony (World Environment Day Event) was organised in early June 2012 to give the project more publicity to the locals as well as people from other
Promoting the green economy
The UNESCO Biosphere Application was approved by the South African national Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and submitted to UNESCO first in September 2012, and the final application was submitted in September 2014. The designation of the Biosphere Reserve was approved at the 27th Session of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere International Coordinating Council in Paris, France, on the 9th of June 2015, covering approximately 360,000ha.
A biosphere reserve is an area proposed by its residents, ratified by a national committee, and designated by the MAB programme, which demonstrates innovative approaches to living and working in harmony with nature. One of the primary objectives of MAB is to achieve a sustainable balance between the goals of conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development, and maintaining associated cultural values.
It is assumed that the registration of the Magaliesberg Biosphere under the UNESCO MAB Programme will improve possibilities for environmentally-sustainable socio-economic development. It will promote the protection of the living environment of the population. It will catalyse local environmental business opportunities. It will, in other words, help create and sustain a 'green economy'. The Biosphere “lable” can be used in branding of products and services in the region. It can also help generating good social responsibility projects for the private sector, such as mining industries, and encourage skills development of the poor through projects of NGOs, private sector and international development agencies.