September 13, 2004
Exploring the Transfrontier - Across Political Boundaries
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Welcome to GISWeekly!In August, Peace Parks Foundation of South Africa was presented with the prestigious Presidential Award at the 2004 ESRI International User Conference. Professor Willem van Riet, chief executive officer of Peace Parks Foundation, accepted the award from ESRI President Jack Dangermond. Peace Parks Foundation is a leading force in establishing transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs), also known as peace parks, which are large land parcels that cross international boundaries. These peace parks have multiple purposes: one is to employ conservation as a land use option to benefit local people, and another is to enhance relationships between countries sharing
boundaries. In part, the goal is to create a pathway for elephants (and other wildlife) to migrate from one park to another which naturally take them across political boundaries. See our interview with Professor van Riet in this week's Industry News.
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Exploring the Transfrontier - Across Political Boundaries
By Susan Smith
In August, Peace Parks Foundation of South Africa was presented with the prestigious Presidential Award at the 2004 ESRI International User Conference. Professor Willem van Riet, chief executive officer of Peace Parks Foundation, accepted the award from ESRI President Jack Dangermond. Peace Parks Foundation is a leading force in establishing transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs), also known as peace parks, which are large land parcels that cross international boundaries. These peace parks have multiple purposes: one is to employ conservation as a land use option to benefit local people, and another is to enhance relationships between countries sharing boundaries. In part, the goal is to
create a pathway for elephants (and other wildlife) to migrate from one park to another which naturally take them across political boundaries.
GISWeekly interviewed Professor van Riet after he returned to Africa to find out more about the work of Peace Parks, political change and their use of GIS in the planning and conceptualization of peace parks.
How did you get involved in the Peace Parks Foundation of South Africa?
van Riet: As a keen canoeist who represented South Africa for a number of years running, I have explored many of the rivers of the world. This exposure to the wild, combined with my love of nature led me to become a landscape architect by training and further develop my skills for environmental planning.
After completion of my studies, where I earned a BArch in Cape Town, a ML Arch in Pennsylvania and a PhD in Pretoria, I spent twenty years as head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, where I initiated a new
direction in environmental planning and environmental impact studies.
My specialist knowledge has benefited conservation in southern Africa over the past 20 years, as I have been involved in the planning, design and development of studies and projects involving a number of national parks. As past vice-president of the Council for Habitat, I paid particular attention to the involvement of communities in the planning of new national parks - an experience that has served the Foundation well when assisting in the establishment of TFCAs.
One of my particular fields of interest and expertise is the development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). I had previously established a laboratory that had become the leading platform of GIS expertise in southern Africa by the time I joined the Foundation in
2000. This expertise has benefited the Foundation in that it now boasts its own GIS laboratory whose expertise is widely used to assist all those involved in the development and management of TFCAs.
In 1988, the IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas identified at least 70 protected areas in 65 countries which straddle national frontiers (Thorsell, 1990) How many of these protected areas are located in South Africa?
van Riet: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) governments have recognised the potential of peace parks to support sustainable economic development, biodiversity conservation and regional peace and stability. One of the specific objectives of the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement is to "promote the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas".
already in various stages of development.
Since publication of the study, the number has been adjusted from 22 to 20, as it was established that one of the 22 would not be viable and two of the areas would be developed as one.
Since the Peace Parks was founded in 1997, how has GIS become used in your work?
van Riet: In 2000 I was offered the position of Executive Vice-Chairman of Peace Parks Foundation and with that the Foundation's GIS programme was initiated. Our initial intention and focus was to create 'cartoon-like' maps using rudimentary data for each of the proposed peace parks. This became the weaponry, so-to-speak, which I could take with me to advocate the intention and purpose of each peace park.
Since then we have built up an extensive database on these protected areas, and developed detailed park zoning and management plans for each of these peace parks. Our intention is to offer spatial tools to the role-players of each peace park to ease their decision-making. We have a very small team, comprising a manager/analyst, remote sensing analyst and land-use planner
working together to offer our GIS to all who are involved with establishing transfrontier conservation areas in the Southern African region.
What types of GIS solutions do you use and how?
resulting in a data hunt to find the necessary answers.
Once a peace park has been agreed to, the GIS assists in the zoning process, where both environmental and socio-economic data are used to derive sensitivity mapping and appropriate tourism and management zonation takes place. The GIS has also offered practical solutions to some of the infrastructural planning in Limpopo National Park, which is the Mozambique component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Radio communication needed to be established in this very rustic park and a view shed analysis was done using both spatial
analytical and 3D analytical tools to derive the best possible site placement for communication antennae. Empowering people directly involved with park management takes place on two levels. The first of which is where the Southern African Wildlife College is used as a base where the Foundation's GIS offer short introductory courses on GIS, Remote Sensing and Global Positioning Systems. The second is where field rangers of the Limpopo National Park have directly been shown the hands-on use of GPS data capture and loading the information into an
ArcView 3.2 license we have stationed in the park. We have made extensive use of the 3D visualization tools to sell the various concepts and bring together natural features which more often than not follow topographical features.
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