Community workshops to raise awareness on the declaration of the Driefontein Grasslands as a Ramsar Site were held on the 8th and 9th of May. Located in Zimbabwe’s central region, the Driefontein Grasslands are unique landscape characterised by a mosaic of wetlands (dams, seasonally-wet grasslands, seeps and streams) that provide breeding habitats for Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes. The site is one of the seven wetlands that were accorded Ramsar Site status in January 2013. Since 2003, BirdLife Zimbabwe has been working with subsistence farming communities in the area to mitigate threats to the two crane species. The main threats are habitat loss caused by wetland agriculture and human disturbance to breeding pairs.
The two workshops, facilitated by staff members from BirdLife Zimbabwe and the International Crane Foundation / Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership, were held in Chinyaure and Chipisa villages. The workshops marked the start of a broader community outreach programmes to explain the conservation, management and governance implications for Driefontein Grasslands following its designation as a Ramsar site. The programme targets local communities, environmental and agricultural extension officers, community leaders and district administrative authorities. During the workshops, community members had the opportunity to discuss trends in wetland utilisation over the past ten years, challenges encountered in managing wetlands as well as feasible technical interventions and institutional arrangements to curb wetland degradation. They also discussed the role they played in conserving cranes since they were resettled in the area in 2002. Similar workshops will be held in four other villages.
Community awareness on declaration of the Driefontein Grasslands as a Ramsar site will reinforce crane and wetland conservation messages that BirdLife Zimbabwe has been disseminating for over a decade. Since 2003, cases of breeding and fledging success for both Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes have been documented. These are some of the tangible conservation impacts of BirdLife Zimbabwe’s community-based crane and wetland conservation activities in the area.