Steve Davies, the chairman of the Conservation Society of Monavale Trust (COSMO) since its inception in 2005, passed away on 1 November 2013. His passing is a great loss, not only to his family, his companion, friends and the Monavale Community, but to wetland conservation in Harare, and indeed, Zimbabwe. Steve’s decades of experience working in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and his career representing the country as a commercial attaché to other African countries and more recently in the private sector, was of great benefit to the wetland cause as he was aware of the inner workings of government and the channels of communication therein, understood the law and at all times demanded good governance.
Monavale Vlei’s conservation began four years prior to Steve’s involvement. Upon his retirement he came on board when the famous all stakeholders City of Harare Town House Meeting ‘Saving the Wetlands’ in May 2005 selected Monavale Vlei for preservation, rehabilitation, research and education at a time when many of Harare’s wetlands were being threatened by informal agriculture, housing development, alien invasive plants, commercial water abstraction, pollution and fire. Water source degradation was a new concept and Harare’s wetlands were at last being seen as the primary source of the City’s water.
As Harare is situated within the Upper Manyame Catchment Basin headwaters and wetlands, the wise use of these wetlands is to restore and protect them for their free ecosystem services and functions so that they are able to feed good quality water into the streams and rivers flowing into the supply reservoir downstream. No other water is available to the city except that which comes from these wetlands.
Steve became very involved in the restoration work at Monavale Vlei, which has now become a model for managing the conservation of other wetlands in Harare. This was in large part achieved through his support in engaging all stakeholders, including government authorities, NGOs and educational institutions. Small Grants Funding from GEF UNDP was awarded to COSMO whose programme restored the biodiversity, created wetland awareness and livelihood options, set up an indigenous tree nursery and wrote The Monavale Local Environmental Plan, together with the City of Harare Planning Department.
Steve’s administrative, communication and networking skills were outstanding and well appreciated. He challenged the recent controversial re-gazetting of The Declaration of the Protection of Harare’s Wetlands. This exercise is ongoing through the Wetlands Survival Forum. Steve was very pleased with the accession of Zimbabwe to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and Monavale Vlei being accorded Ramsar site status.
The formation of the Wetlands Survival Forum Trust to broaden the platform of those concerned about wetlands and water is great testimony the tireless work Steve contributed to the wetland conservation cause. The success of COSMO’s efforts illustrates that concerned local residents can positively influence wetland ecosystem management and conservation.
Monavale Vlei Programme Manager, COSMO