The Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR) is a vast area of 322 030 ha formally designated by UNESCO in 2007 in accordance with the global Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. It is located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa approximately 40 km east of Cape Town, and incorporates the following local municipal areas: Stellenbosch Municipality, portion of Drakenstein Municipality, portion of Breede Valley Municipality, portion of Witzenberg Municipality and a portion of Theewaterskloof Municipality.
The CWBR landscape is being collaboratively managed in line with the UNESCO biosphere reserve guidelines, namely the global MAB Strategy (2015 – 2025), Lima Action Plan (2016 – 2025) and the South African Strategy for the Biosphere Reserve Programme (2016 – 2020). The essence of the biosphere reserve model is about the combination of three complementary functions: conservation (of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation); sustainable development (fostering economic development which is ecologically and culturally sustainable); and logistic support (promoting research, monitoring, education and training). These functions need to be implemented within a defined landscape, delimited according to a zonation system along a progression from preservation to sustainable resource use in the form of an inner core area, adjoining buffer zones and an outer transition zone. Accordingly, the CWBR is delimited into core areas of 99 459 ha (31% of total area), buffer zones of 133 844 ha (42%) and transition areas of 88 727 ha (27%).
The CWBR shares its southern border with the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve (designated in 1998), and extends northwards along the Cape Fold Belt Mountain Chain and the adjoining valleys constituting the Cape Winelands. The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve (designated in 2000) is in close proximity to the west. These biosphere reserves are all located within the Cape Floral Region, the smallest and most diverse of the six floral kingdoms of the world. The CWBR also forms an integral part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site, inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in 2004.
The CWBR is clearly a very unique landscape. In order to ensure transparency and decentralized decision-making, the governance of the biosphere reserve is established as a non-profit company - the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve Company. It is expertly managed by a Board of Directors and an assisting Technical Committee, consisting of representatives of all major stakeholders. The CWBR is managed as a complex social-ecological system and therefore incorporates all three dimensions of sustainable development (ecological, social, and economic). In addition, the biosphere reserve is a landscape model that contributes to achieving the 17 sustainable development goals.
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