Highlighting the career of Prof Willem van Riet, directing innovative conservation initiatives in Africa, illustrating his experiences and approach through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

An all-inclusive approach to conservation was instigated by numerous adventures on wild rivers in the 60’s and developed through academic research at Universities in Philadelphia (USA) and Pretoria (South Africa). GIS software, data and processes were harnessed throughout his career in support of planning, scientific analyses and fundraising.  Projects and programmes will be illustrated through a number themes. This approach was implemented during his years on the SANParks Board and on transboundary initiatives in Southern Africa during his 10 years as the CEO of the Peace Parks Foundation. Recently he has functioned as a consulted through the Swedish entity (Transboundary Conservation Foundation).

"I hope that the review of these conservation projects, as a journey of discovery through the use of GIS and maps, will be of assistance to conservation development in many parts of the world. I would like to iterate that the content of this site reflects my own personal point of view and is based on my personal experiences."

KAZA, as it is generally known, is one of the greatest global conservation projects. The website gives a very good view of the activities of the last few years and the scope and size of its activities is breath taking.

A workshop investigating the state of the development of KAZA is soon to be held at Victoria Falls at the end of October. My invitation to attend brought back memories of my original involvement with this amazing conservation initiative.

At the time I was at the University of Pretoria running the Department of Landscape Architecture advising Dr. Anton Rupert about the Great Limpopo TFCA. A phone call Dr Rupert, about a map he needed to present at a SADC meeting in Walvisbaai, was my first introduction to this huge area in the upper Zambezi catchment.

This map was followed by two studies called OUZIT and expanded OUZIT. These two studies focussed mainly on the tourism component of this region and on the development potential through the creation of infrastructure. These studies where initiated by the DBSA and a Mr Ken Small a enthusiastic American.

It has been very difficult to find copies of these two studies. Below is the reference to the first of these. These studies originally drew attention to the Ministers of Tourism of the five countries of the upper Zambezi River but later shifted its focus to the conservation components of biodiversity.

DBSA/DTI. 1999. Preliminary project scan for scoping assessment for the Okavango Upper Zambezi
International Tourism Study (OUZIT). Main Report. Development Bank of Southern Africa/Department of Trade and Industry. Midrand: with DHV Consultants, Willem van Riet Landscape - Architects, Steward Scott, Grant Thornton Kessel Feinstein.

I hope you enjoy reviewing the amazing progress by studying the website of the secretariat in Kasane Botswana.


Published in African Projects