WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the… world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
In 1961, a broad call for support was signed by 16 of the world’s leading conservationists. It was called the Morges Manifesto. This manifesto stated that while the expertise to protect the world environment existed, the financial support to achieve this protection did not.
From this, the decision was made to establish the World Wildlife Fund as an international fundraising organisation. The intention was to work in collaboration with existing conservation groups and bring financial support to the worldwide conservation movement.
As the World Wildlife Fund grew in the 70s and 80s, it began to expand its work to conserve the environment as a whole. This reflected the interdependence of all living things, rather than focusing on select species in isolation.
Our shared future
From our impact on our fast changing climate to our free flowing rivers, expansive life giving oceans to vast food supplying landscapes, WWF South Africa catalyses strategic initiatives where there is the greatest need to restore balance, reduce impact and protect our country’s vital resources and natural biodiversity.
By ensuring healthy functioning natural systems, and the species and communities that are an integral part of them, we can help restore and reinforce our planet’s natural defences.
Why does it matter?
Our shared oceans produce 70% of our oxygen, absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide and drive the Earth’s weather systems.
They are also an essential source of food, feeding over a billion people. Plus 10% of the world’s population rely on fishing-related activities for their livelihoods, from commercial and small-scale fishing to transport and tourism.
The marine environment also holds great economic value, with South Africa’s coastal goods and services contributing a third to our gross domestic product. Thus managing the many uses of our oceans and coasts is an ongoing challenge.
Humanity relies on the interconnection of plants and creatures and the unique roles they each play. For our country and its citizens to prosper we need to value, respect and protect these natural ecosystems.
In biodiversity-rich South Africa, the majority of our land is privately owned or within communal farmlands. It is no surprise that commercial agriculture, specifically ploughing of natural land, has the biggest impact on biodiversity loss.
With this growing demand on the environment, we are pushing nature’s life-giving systems to the brink of collapse. This reduces nature’s ability to bounce back from wildfires, drought and floods in the changing climate. Healthy undisturbed landscapes support not only plants and wildlife, but the livelihoods of local communities and businesses that produce our food, fuel and more.
Wildlife are crucial to nature’s delicate web of life. Yet their biggest threats are due to human impacts on the environment. These include habitat loss and overexploitation through illegal trade, both local and international.
Demand from Asia, for wildlife parts and products, continues to drive this black market trade. This challenge is exacerbated by the involvement of organised crime networks.
Wildlife is also essential for tourism in South Africa. It creates opportunities and benefits for local communities living around protected areas as well as the broader economy.
What we eat comes directly from the environment. Yet food production has the greatest negative impact on the planet, more than any other human activity. To keep up with the growing demand, we will have to address the many absurdities, inadequacies and problematic practices in how our food is produced and what we consume.
While agriculture is a critical contributor to rural development and job creation and the GDP, the environmental impacts of farming are high. We need to promote responsible farming as well as responsible consumption.
Our farming practices and consumption patterns must protect the long-term maintenance of healthy landscapes, and the regeneration of our natural resource base such as our soils, water resources and energy options, while also ensuring profitable yields. This extends to ensuring the well-being of farmers and fishers, as well as local communities who rely on flowing rivers and nourished soil to survive and feed our nation.
We all rely daily on energy to move around, to cook, to work, to light up our homes and to power the factories that produce our food and the goods that enable our modern lifestyles. How we produce electricity and energy affects the environment. Coal must be mined and burnt, whereas renewable energy is cheaper and far better for the planet. South Africa’s current coal system is a huge contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.
Our current energy model is also unable to meet our development challenges, reduce our emissions nor provide electricity we can all afford. Yet we have solar potential on par with some of the best solar areas globally. We need to use it.
If global temperatures rise above the defined level of 2 degrees Celsius, it will cause floods, drought, wildfires and intense unpredictable weather events. If we keep using fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow, there might be no tomorrow.
In previous decades in South Africa, we have invested heavily in engineered water infrastructure. But we can no longer solve our water issues by building more dams or canals. We need to rehabilitate and maintain the natural areas which are the sources of water for our cities and farms, and we need to rethink how we use water.
We have drained, dammed and polluted vast numbers of critical wetlands, rivers and aquifers – nature’s water storage and filtering powerhouses – thus diminishing the function of these natural systems to provide us with clean water.
We urgently need to act on the fact that half of our country’s river flow is provided by a tiny 10% of land area. Yet, most of this land is not protected. These strategic water source areas – the mountain catchments that yield our major rivers – are also critical for food production and the sustenance of many people downstream.