Obituary – Steve Davies
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 also 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 its channels of communication, understood the law and at all times demanded good governance.
The conservation of Monavale Vlei (wetland) began four years prior to Steve’s involvement. He came on board in May 2005, upon his retirement, when the famous all-stakeholders City of Harare Town House Meeting ‘Saving the Wetlands’ 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 concern and Harare’s wetlands were at last being seen as the primary source of the city’s water. Harare is situated within the Upper Manyame catchment basin headwaters and wetlands, and the only water available to the city comes from these wetlands. Their wise use is to restore and maintain them for the benefits they provide to people and nature, so that they are able to feed good quality water into the streams and rivers flowing into the supply reservoir downstream.
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 work was in large part achieved through his support in engaging all stakeholders, including government authorities, NGOs and educational institutions. Small Grants Funding from UNDP’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) was awarded to COSMO to restore biodiversity, create wetland awareness and livelihood options based on an indigenous tree nursery, and write the Monavale Local Environmental Plan with the City of Harare Planning Department.
|Tsitsi Wutawunashe (GEFSGP N.C) extreme left followed by Steve Davis ( COSMO Director) Anada Tiega (RAMSAR Secretary General), Dorothy Wakeling ( COSMO Director), Jimmy Muropa (Monavale Vlei Scout) and kids from Monavale Kids Club on arrival at Monavale Vlei.|
Steve’s administrative, communications 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 the according of Ramsar Site status to Monavale Vlei.
The formation of the Wetlands Survival Forum Trust to broaden the platform of those concerned about wetlands and water is great testimony to Steve’s tireless work. The success of COSMO’s efforts shows how concerned local residents can positively influence wetland ecosystem management and conservation.
In October 2012 Paul Ouedraogo of the Ramsar Secretariat and Denis Landenbergue of WWF met Steve Davies and Dorothy Wakeling for the first time in Harare during a joint mission to assist Zimbabwe’s accession to the Convention. They quickly became friends, with Steve always ready to try his hand at the French language for the conservation of wetlands, and Dorothy curious and persuasive on wetland management and the struggle against wetland degradation.
It was a pleasure for the Secretariat to support these defenders of conservation and sustainable development. Their commitment and work over several decades led Ramsar Secretary General Anada Tiega to visit Monavale Vlei during the 2013 World Wetlands Day event organized by the Government of Zimbabwe.
With the death of Steve we lose a pioneer and a true champion of the wise use of wetlands. We hope to continue our good friend’s work and commitment.
Dorothy Wakeling, Monavale Vlei Programme Manager, COSMO (www.monavalevlei.com)
Paul Ouédraogo, Senior Advisor for Africa, the Ramsar Convention
|Monavale wetland during the rainy season.|
Photos courtesy of COSMO