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Man & Biosphere (MaB)


Biosphere Reserves are designated regions throughout the world where internationally important protected areas lie adjacent to human settlements which need to use the land for a multiplicity of purposes. People may have been historically displaced as reserves were declared, and tended to concentrate around the margins, increasing the pressure on local resources and exposing entire ecosystems to stress. Restricted or prohibited access to communities' historic resource base may have changed land-use patterns for the worse.

Relationship between the biosphere progamme and other NGOs

Biosphere Reserves aim to offer political processes to stimulate sustainable utilisation of resources within a framework of economic empowerment and growth. The philosophy is one of development and public participation through education, training, and involvement in research and monitoring activities. Biosphere Reserves are designed to form a collaborative platform to bring together governments, both local and national, with the private sector and international Non Government Organisations to establish projects to transfer skills to, and build economic capacity in, poorer communities.

Established within the framework of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO's) inter-disciplinary Man and Biosphere Programme, Biosphere Reserves constitute a unique category of protected area. Biosphere Reserves may encompass terrestrial, coastal or marine environments. They have in common natural resources which are, or are threatened to become, under unsustainable pressures from mankind. Their development is oriented and supported by an action plan established in 1984 which has been ratified by a number of bodies including the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Each Reserve remains under the sovereignty of the State where it is situated and submits to State legislation.

The key roles of Biosphere Reserves


Each Biosphere Reserve is conceived to fulfil:

  • a developmental role, combining conservation objectives with the sustainable use of ecosystem resources to benefit local communities;
  • a conservation role, protecting locally-occurring genetic resources, plant and animal species, and ecosystems and landscapes of value to maintain biological diversity and life-support systems; and
  • a logistical role, providing research, monitoring education and training opportunities for local, regional and world wide purposes, through exchanges organised within the framework of an international network that links all Biosphere Reserves under the auspices of UNESCO.

Each Biosphere Reserve is managed with these three roles in mind and is designed around a particular zonation pattern which includes a core area devoted to strict protection, a delineated buffer zone where only activities compatible with conservation objectives can take place, and a transition zone where sustainable resource management is practised by co-operating with local communities.

Biosphere Reserves are recognised at the international level by UNESCO as important areas for conserving biological diversity and furthering scientific knowledge, technical competence and human values necessary for sustainable resource management and use. Furthermore, International Biosphere Reserves are seen as the building blocks of bioregional planning and, as such, form part of regional and national spatial development frameworks furthering sustainable utilisation of resources at both levels. At national level, countries develop action plans for their Biosphere Reserves that outline management objectives to assure a coherent policy for development, conservation and monitoring. The Biospheres together form an international network facilitating co-operation, research and monitoring, as well as mutual sharing of expertise, technical information and success stories.

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve Initiative must be seen in the context of the increasing need for Integrated Environmental Management in the region and by providing the processes to be used by communities to empower themselves to access resources and develop the capacity to enter the mainstream economic pool of activities in the region.

The power of these processes are that they benefit all people by providing communities with the framework of opportunities to become stakeholders in their land and resources and at the same time give security to titled landowners and create opportunities to further develop their capacity to respond to community needs.

Biosphere Reserves are not a statutory imposition on the integrity of landholders. Biosphere Reserves provide voluntary models and assistance to further sustainable development and environmental management in a region. Biosphere Reserves demonstrate to public opinion and the world at large critical ways to resolve land-use conflicts and ensure protection of biological diversity. They offer local, national and international opportunities for education, recreation and tourism, and help create a conciousness of solidarity among all people of the world to sustainably manage the biosphere.