From 25th – 28th of October 2016, the 2016 National Wetlands Indaba was held at Swadini: A Forever Resort in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.

The National Wetlands Indaba (NWI) is an annual event intended to provide a platform for a cross-disciplinary gathering of practitioners involved with the conservation and sustainable utilization of South Africa’s wetland resources. These include scientists, decision-makers, researchers, conservationists and educators hailing from various organisations and Government departments.

The theme for the 2016 NWI was “Forward together for the sustainability of our wetlands”. In line with this theme, the Indaba aimed to focus on the benefits that can be derived from wetlands from both the direct, positive effects on human health of maintaining healthy wetlands (such as the provision of food, clean water, pharmaceutical products, etc.) and the direct negative effects of mismanaging wetlands that result in the impairment of our health and even the loss of life (such as through the effects of water -related diseases, burning peatlands, floods, and water pollution).

This year, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) was not only invited to attend and participate in the 2016 NWI but was also given the opportunity to invite key members from each of the 11 municipalities participating in the LAB: Wetlands South Africa (LAB: Wetlands SA) project to attend. 20 local government officials were able to attend the Indaba with sponsorship from ICLEI.

In addition to the many insightful presentations given throughout the week, during the course of the NWI, ICLEI ran several events exclusively tailored for the benefit of the attending municipal representatives. This included a Google Earth Training session led by Dr. Piet-Louis Grundling (Chairman of the South African Wetland Society and the Deputy Director of the Working for Wetlands Programme), two ICLEI led plenary sessions themed “People and Wetlands” and a fieldtrip to a local wetland led by Professor Fred Ellery and Anton Listrom.

The participation of local government at this event was very well received and proved to be a great success. Organisers and practitioners in the field highlighted the importance of local government at such events. Feedback received was very positive and the LAB Wetlands SA team and municipalities are looking forward to next years event.

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