Chairman’s Report

1 APRIL 2019 – 31 MARCH 2020


Non-profit organisations depend on the voluntary efforts of many people. With others, the late Willem Botha’s energy, leadership, continuity and long-term commitment has brought the GCBR to where it is today: an (inter)nationally respected member of South Africa’s biosphere community. But for an untimely death, this AGM would have seen completion of his second term as Chairman. He would and should be proud of his role in GCBR’s founding and its contribution to the area’s ecology and its people. It is both with respect for his legacy and humility in knowing about his efforts that, as Chairman, I complete this report spanning an exciting period in the organisation’s life. In keeping with past practice, the narrative of this report is complemented with details and illustrations of GCBR work presented by Dr. Steve du Toit, the Chief Executive.

GCBR’s governance is stable and resilient, which does not mean there is complacency about its membership and ongoing difficulties in recruitment common to non-profit organisations in general. This being said, experience shows the merit of pushing forward on succession planning which Willem had started. People with the time, energy and passion for guiding GCBR and its work are not easy to find.
Could you be who we are looking for?

Over the year, the board has provided support and counsel to an organisation-wide process which will: (i) update strategy; (ii) improve the information flow from management with greater attention to performance of projects and for the organisation as a whole. These can be seen as examples of the GCBR’s active investment in learning about what it does and how it relates to diverse stakeholders. The board continues to encourage active attention to financial sustainability and increased public awareness of the threats faced by the natural environment which is a significant attraction for living in this unique biosphere whose value is taken for granted.

This report describes what the GCBR’s board has been dealing with over the past year and prospects of what probably lies ahead. The starting scenario is GCBR responding to the Covid-19 lock-down. As always, we welcome your feedback on what you have (not) heard.


The current board consist of:
Ken Coetzee (2nd term) Re-elected 2017
Alan Fowler (co-opted 2020)
Chris Horsley (co-opted 2019)
Cobus Nel (2nd term) Re-elected 2017
Yvette Potgieter (1st term) Elected 2018
Hendrik Visser (2nd term) Re-elected 2018
There is one vacancy.


Board meetings were held on the following dates:
• 10 April 2019
• 12 June 2019
• 14 August 2019
• 9 October 2019
• 27 November 2019
• 12 February 2020
All meetings were held at the Outeniqua Experimental Farm in George and were well attended.


Four meetings were held on the following dates:
• 22 May 2019 – held at Skilpadgat. Albertinia
• 20 August 2019 – held at the Experimental Farm, Oudtshoorn • 20 November 201– held at Ilita Lodge, Groote Brak
• 26 February 2019 – held at Skilpadgat. Albertinia

As in the past, meetings show a continuity in attendance by those interested in and committed to GCBR’s goals. The efforts of Dr. Annelise Vlok continue to ensure that the topics remain relevant with high standards of presentations maintained. Having these meetings in different locations offers the opportunity for people across the domain to learn about the GCBR.

A step forward will be to review the format and audience which, for example, seldom involves critical stakeholders, such as land owners, eco-related businesses, such as tourism. We look forward to hearing any ideas you may have about to diversifying the outreach of members’ meetings.


The work of the GCBR is divided into two main categories: day to day running of the company and the practical implementation of the projects.

Operational management
This is the responsibility of the Chief Executive and his core staff as well as project managers and their assistants/contractors. We continue to be encouraged by Dr. Steve du Toit’s thoughtful and careful leadership of an organisation learning about learning to be itself.

Oversight of the activities and the financial expenditure and reporting of the company as well as strategic planning and adoption of appropriate policies to support these activities. These tasks are performed by the board of directors.

Role of the board is to:
• ensure that activities remain in line with the agreed strategic medium to long term vision as set out in our own documents and that of the MAB Programme;
• when it becomes necessary to amend a strategy which affects the implementation of a project it is done in consultation with the organizational development team to ensure a smooth transition;
• adopt policies that will guide the implementers and set the boundaries within which they may operate;
• ensure proper financial management structures and approve audited financial statements as directors are ultimately responsible for financial expenditures;
• develop further strategies and give guidance on matters which I shall refer to later in this report.

The Micro-Fund
This fund is managed by the Board. With a minimum of fuss and paperwork, it is designed to flexibly provide small amounts of finance to support initiates driven by local people that correspond to the GCBR’s goals. I am pleased to report that the fund has assisted six citizen’s ecology initiatives and encourage readers to look at the web site to see the criteria and how to apply. The fund is there for you!

Strategies set out direction of activity and priorities. Policies provide guidance on how strategies are to be implemented. The board has progressively set out policies in the following areas.
Membership Policy: This policy provides for three categories of membership.

  • Individual (Free);
  • Affinity (R500.00 pa); and
  • Business (R1 500.00 pa).
  • All types of memberships must be renewed annually.
  • Sponsorship Policy: This policy provides for two categories of sponsorships.
  • Activity Sponsor

Organisational Sponsor
The following policies are seen to be complementary.
Conflicts of interest: This policy applies to board and management staff. It enables individuals to signal potential areas of their professional and personal life that may compete or be at variance with the best interests of the organisation.

Risk management: The GCBR is not risk adverse – innovation inevitably brings uncertainty about outcomes. This policy provides the framework to systematically assess (changes in) activities might bring in terms of different types of risk.
As the need arises, further policies will be developed.

Although we have not entered into any twinning agreement with an international BR yet it is by no means off the radar. Hopefully the right opportunity will present itself. However, our international exposure is also growing. During Steve’s latest invitation to attend the workshop of the World Network of Island and Coastal Biospheres Reserves (WNICBR) in Menorca Island in the Mediterranean Sea the GCBR was requested to host the 2019 event. It took place from 15 – 20 September 2019 at Gourikwa Reserve between Stilbaai and Gouritsmond attended by 21 BR’s from all over the world as well as staff from the UNESCO MAB programme and South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs. It is a first for Africa and we are very proud to host the event and with the opportunity to showcase our BR to an international audience. My thanks to the GCBR team who made this happen.

A sign of maturity in GCBR’s international connections is seen in an exchange secondment of Luami Zondagh, the Learning and Evaluation Specialist, to a BR in western Australia. She has also contributed to the development of a monitoring system for DOB Ecology. We anticipate more active engagement in DOB’s development of a partner network.

We have not obtained any further immovable assets. However, as a component of strategy, discussions are underway with various parties regarding properties which may be acquired by institutions such as the WWF. We may have similar arrangements as in the case with Rietkraal with the WWF and CapeNature in terms of which we undertake the management of the land. We shall only enter into such agreements if we are able to secure the funding necessary for the management.

Ideas, Strategy and Projects
By the end of next year, some projects in the second phase of project funding from DOB Ecology are coming to an end. A process is underway to ensure continuation of the very important work that has been done. Led by the Programme Development Specialist, Wendy Crane, this is a major task, taking up several months of stakeholder consultations. The work involves both revisions to projects as well as to the organisation itself. Internally, we speak of an ‘upgrade’ from GCBR 2.0 to GCBR 2.1.
Rules recently promulgated by the Department of Environmental Affairs (NRM funding) make it impossible to comply with their funding provisions. These new requirements will cause a huge withdrawal of several billion rand from an economy under siege.

Promotion, marketing and branding.
Building a well-known and respected brand is vital to be able to attract quality project funding. We shall continue to build on the successes we have already achieved with our social media marketing and print work. For those who have not done so please have a look at the Prospectus on our website. It provides an overview of the work done over the past 10 years. The media marketing and communications team, led by Alyson Horsley, have greatly increased the quality, quantity and outreach of GCBR’s messages.

The long-term sustainability of the company is closely linked to a successful succession policy that we need to develop and implement. UNESCO also realized the need to involve the youth more and has set up a Youth Forum with representatives from all over the world. We envisage a youth board of directors consisting of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 in order to give them exposure to the running of a company such as the GCBR and the roles and responsibilities of directors. We have given a mandate to the CE to brief some of the young people in our organization to come up with ideas on the process to compile a representative board.

Gouritz Enterprises Pty Ltd
We have not yet been able to find the right opportunities to mobilize GE into a profitable enterprise and it shall remain dormant until a viable opportunity arises. However, we are in the process of discussing a proposal that will certainly be profitable and beneficial to the GCBR for many years to come. This venture, if we succeed in our endeavour, will provide untied income from sources under our own control. Negotiations are in a very sensitive stage and we are unable to disclose further information but will definitely do so as soon as we can.
Gaining scale and strengthening the GCBR’s ‘convening’ role and capabilities.

This must be done principally by influencing other stakeholders and not by expanding projects, but by using experience & learning gained in existing projects to influence others, through clever communications. A focus on people and behaviour means we have to be skilled at convening and facilitating processes that involve multiple stakeholders – such as landowners and institutions.

Concentrating on behaviour change
It is said that we are the last generation that can combat serious ecological disaster as people are the driving force behind ecological problems and must therefore provide and implement the solutions. The strategic upgrade mentioned above is partly inspired by the need for giving greater attention to public appreciation of and respect for the ecology they live in.

Being more effective
We must be able to focus and connect activities better by making use of the learning for leverage not only to convey our messages better but also to physically locate and create linkages between our various projects.

The VanWyksdorp Development Institute (VDI)
The GCBR and the VDI have a strong mutual relationship and we foresee that this relationship will mature as the VDI grows. Both companies will contribute to the learning experience as progress is made. It will also benefit others who obtain information from our experiences.

This partnership is intended to help establish an independent organisation dedicated to goals similar to those of the GCBR. Its work with local communities and government complements much of our work.

It is a pleasure to say thank you to many people and organisations who support us so tirelessly.

Maas Goote and the team at DOB Ecology, their Board and their Advisory Board for the funding as well as their moral support and leadership. They do so much to expose us to other partners in the world.

The Hessequa Municipality which offers practical examples of collaboration to nine other municipalities in our domain.

The Garden Route Casino Community Trust for their numerous contributions.

The Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency for its support. * The Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning for their annual contribution and support for the organisation: a much valued quality of funding. Their additional support to enable us to draft our Framework Plan is much appreciated.

Our very loyal and supportive members – especially the faithful who attend every meeting no matter wherever the location maybe.

CapeNature for their support and the knowledge which they share so freely. * LandCare for their support and the use of their facilities at Outeniqua and Oudtshoorn Experimental Farms. They always make their facilities available to us at no cost. A good example of an affinity member.

Charles Basson who elected to leave the board at the end of his current term as well as those directors still serving, for your contributions.

All the very able presenters for their informative presentations today and at the other members’ meetings.

All staff – in the office and especially those who work in the veld – sometimes under difficult conditions. Please convey our gratitude to them.

The landowners who make it possible to implement projects on their land. Any omissions are not intended and your forgiveness is appreciated.
By taking forward Willem’s legacy, it is my privilege to serve the GCB in a different way.

Prof. Alan Fowler