Interview with Rita Botha, Project Manager at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR)

Rita Botha is the project manager at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) for the Goukou Resilient Rivers Projects and the Gouritz Ecological Corridor Project. Rita trained as an attorney at law as well as an archaeologist.

Rita is an admitted attorney and conveyancer who specialised in property law.

After 11 years in the legal profession she decided to build on her passion for problem solving by joining the NGO sector as a senior project manager. She works on projects focusing on ecological rehabilitation, invasive alien plant management, stakeholder engagement and the development of ecological corridors.

Lisa Cloete (LC): Hi Rita, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve?

Rita Botha(RB): I am currently a project manager at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) for the Goukou Resilient Rivers Projects as well as the Gouritz Ecological Corridor Project.

The Goukou Resilient River Project focuses on rehabilitation through invasive alien plant management, propagation and planting of indigenous plant species and testing different rehabilitation methodologies. The Gouritz Ecological Corridor Project aims to improve the ecological functionality of mountain, wetland, river and coastal ecosystems to enhance ecological connectivity. I completed my studies in Archaeology and then Law and became a junior partner at a law firm in Johannesburg. After ten years in the legal profession I started to yearn for a new way to add value to the world around me.

Dr Steve Du Toit gave me the opportunity to join the GCBR family two and half years ago and I packed up my books, husband and cat and moved across country to start a new adventure.

LC: As you know one of the goals we share at N4J and GCBR is to ensure that communities are able to become more resilient through restoring and protecting nature. How do you see providing jobs for climate change working within this?

RB: Providing someone with work can have a multitude of positive impacts. It can provide stability, confidence, an opportunity to grow and to become part of a community / family / team with a common goal. It can provide meaning and purpose.

We have the opportunity to provide people with the tools they require to work with nature instead of against her and be agents of change within their own communities.

LC: We’ll need to scale our work and impacts if we want to see meaningful impact on a larger scale.  What in your view will be the most effective way to accomplish that?

RB: I think we need to learn from nature. Nothing in nature works alone, everything is connected and so are humans. We cannot go at it alone. We need people to come together and establish communities of practice that gives nature an equal chair at the table. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the global picture and that is why I try and focus on the here and now. Make the decision to make a difference in your circle of influence.

We need to find those people in our communities who want to make a difference and provide them with support, resources and information so that they can encourage the next person to do the same. That way we grow a network of champions who all add a piece to the global puzzle.

LC: Thank you Rita. It has been a pleasure speaking with you..

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    As the Creative Advisor and Lead Storyteller, Lisa comes to Nature for Justice passionate about restoring and protecting our natural world and with a wide range of experience in the creative world of storytelling. She has worked in the art industry, publishing, education and literary fields. She has also worked in Communications for an ocean-based NGO and run’s her own small social media campaign for beach clean ups in her city in South Africa.

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