The NRM (National Resources Mangaement) Programme is a collective of all the Working-for… programmes (WfWater, WfLand, WfEnergy, WfForests, WfCoast, WfWetlands etc.). In 2007 the Rhodes Restoration Research Group was established to provide guidance and scientific oversight to the Eastern Cape Restoration Programme (principally the thicket restoration, WfLand, and the clearing of alien plants, WfWater). One of the benefits accrued through this contract was the provision of student bursaries from the DEA, which helped a number of students graduate in the field of restoration ecology and applied sciences as well as result in the publication of several papers from this work.
Recently the DEA called for expressions of interest for Capacity Building. The DES was successful in the process and has been awarded a three-year contract. The contract value is currently R930k and most of the budget is consumed by the carbon and biodiversity baselines needed for the quest for carbon and biodiversity credits (but these data are also being used to support 2 Masters degrees), plus there are two student bursaries and conference support costs included. There is scope for additional funding (Sep 2014) when the NRM has a budget review. The budgets for 2015/16 and 2016/17 have not yet been finalised.
The vision for the collaboration is to be part of a Scientific Advisory Panel for the NRM Programme that can annually assist in providing focus and strategic advice on how to best spend their R1.2bn annual budget. The collective team will also steer the research agenda and in so doing focus the limited research funding into key areas that will provide the greatest net benefit to the NRM programmes. We are already feeding ideas into this process.
Given the dire state of our ecological infrastructure in many areas, it is vital that we take full advantage of the NRM funding to train as many resource managers, restoration ecologists and environmental educators in the near future.