Globally, the biosphere reserve concept has been implemented in many different ways in order to meet local needs and conditions. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of the biosphere reserve concept has been the flexibility and creativity with which it has been carried out in various situations. The Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve strives to be a site of excellence that explores and demonstrates approaches to conservation and sustainable development on a regional scale.
The biosphere reserve should therefore not be confused with clearly defined and proclaimed nature reserves. Whilst the biosphere reserve is defined in geographical terms, its outside boundaries are essentially ‘soft’ boundaries. This is due to the fact that the biosphere reserve is cover privately-owned land where the co-operation of landowners is a prerequisite for long-term success. The biosphere reserve should furthermore not be seen as an island isolated from its surroundings, but as an integral part of a regional planning and development strategy aimed at promoting sustainable development. As such, the biosphere reserve will not be an additional and optional entity that will be a liability for the relevant stakeholders.
Internationally, the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve has the following goals:
a) Provide practical ways to resolve land use conflict and to protect biological diversity.
b) Provide opportunities and share ideas for education, recreation and tourism to address conservation and sustainability issues
c) Co-operate on thematic projects based topics (e.g. agricultural practices or climatic change) or on ecosystem types (e.g. fynbos)
d) Create a connection among people and cultures worldwide on how to live in harmony with environment and each other
On the local level, the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve aims to achieve the following:
(i) Help create and maintain a healthy environment for people and their families
(ii) Maintain productive and healthy landscapes
(iii) Reduce conflict among people
(iv) Encourage diverse local economies to revitalise rural areas
(v) Increase the involvement of communities in land use decisions and thus the connection to the land
(vi) Support and facilitate interconnected scientific studies and monitoring
(vii) Celebrate cultural diversity and provide opportunities to maintain existing traditions and lifestyle
Biosphere reserves also give physical effect to the MaB Program and have been designed as tools for reconciling and integrating the conflicting interests and pressures that characterise land-use planning. They are the most widely implemented and recognised of the various bioregional planning programs. The objective of the MaB Program is to promote the achievement of sustainable development through the establishment and management of specific places (biosphere reserves) where three functions are served, namely:
a) Development refers to the actions required to foster human and economic development.
b) Conservation refers to the conservation of biological diversity and genetic material.
c) Logistical support refers to scientific research, education and financial support for management actions.
Achieving the three imperatives for sustainable development, namely environmental protection, human wellbeing, and economic efficiency is therefore encapsulated in the biosphere reserve concept.