Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Succulent Karoo

Tab 1

Women weaving in the Succulent Karoo Hotspot

CEPF is no longer active in this region.

Stretching along the Atlantic coast of Africa, from southwestern South Africa into southern Namibia, the Succulent Karoo biodiversity hotspot covers 116,000 square kilometers of desert. It boasts the world's richest variety of succulent flora, as well as high reptile and invertebrate diversity.

The hallmark of the Succulent Karoo is its exceptionally diverse and unique flora, especially succulents and bulbs. The hotspot is home to 6,356 plant species, 40 percent of which are found nowhere else. More than 900 are also threatened with extinction.

The hotspot’s biodiversity is under pressure from a range of human impacts, especially mining, crop agriculture, ostrich farming, overgrazing, illegal collection of fauna and flora, and anthropogenic climate change. Most of the region, an estimated 100,000 kilometers, is used for communal or commercial grazing. Although this land use can be compatible with the maintenance of natural resources, overgrazing has severely degraded much as this area.

Our support focuses on seven of the highest priority areas for conservation: Bushmanland Inselbergs, Central Namaqualand Coast, Namaqualand Uplands, Knersvlakte, Hantam-Roggeveld, Central Little Karoo and Sperrgebiet.

Tab 2

Flowers in the Succulent Karoo

Our strategy for this hotspot is based on the results of the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Planning (SKEP) process. SKEP, which means "to serve" or "to create" in Afrikaans, developed a 20-year strategy for conservation and sustainable development in the hotspot as part of our preparation for investment.

SKEP, now the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Program, developed an overarching framework for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the hotspot from which the best niche for CEPF investment could be determined. The SKEP vision is one we share: “The people of the Succulent Karoo take ownership of and enjoy their unique living landscape in a way that maintains biodiversity and improves livelihoods now and into perpetuity.”

The specific niche for CEPF in the hotspot has been to catalyze key activities in under-funded geographic priority areas using innovative mechanisms to achieve biodiversity conservation by involving specific land users such as the agriculture sector, mining companies and communal authorities. Six strategic directions guide CEPF's approach in the Succulent Karoo as outlined in the ecosystem profile for this region:

  1. Expand protected area corridors through public-private-communal partnerships in the priority areas of Bushmanland Inselbergs, Central Namaqualand Coast, Namaqualand Uplands, Knersvlakte, Hantam-Roggeveld, Central Little Karoo and Sperrgebiet.
  2. Engage key industrial sectors in meeting conservation objectives identified by SKEP.
  3. Retain and restore critical biodiversity in areas under greatest land-use pressure.
  4. Mainstream conservation priorities into land-use planning and policymaking.
  5. Increase awareness of the Succulent Karoo Hotspot.
  6. Create the capacity to catalyze the SKEP program.

We recently completed an assessment of our initial investment, including monitoring of final project reports compiled by the many civil society groups supported and a workshop with stakeholders to contribute to the findings.

Tab 3

1.  Expand protected area corridors through public-private-communal partnerships in the priority areas of Bushmanland-Inselbergs, Central Namaqualand Coast, Namaqualand Uplands, Knersvlakte, Hantam-Roggeveld, Central Little Karoo and Sperrgebiet 1.1  Establish catalyst teams responsible for mobilizing local stakeholder participation; securing necessary political support; consolidating baseline information on biodiversity for long-term monitoring; developing management plans that formalize roles of each partner; and creating strategies for long-term financial sustainability
2.  Engage key industrial sectors in meeting conservation objectives identified by SKEP 2.1  Promote best practices in the ostrich industry through pilot projects, policy recommendations and marketing options
2.2  Support mining forums of corporate and small-scale mining enterprises to discuss and develop mechanisms for addressing biodiversity concerns
2.3  Direct corporate investment into conservation projects that contribute to conservation targets and regional development objectives
2.4  Assist landowners in the development of ecotourism and natural resource-based enterprises that protect biodiversity
3.  Retain and restore critical biodiversity in areas under greatest land-use pressure 3.1  Conduct a rapid assessment to map grazing impacts in all geographic priority areas
3.2  Develop fine-scale conservation and monitoring plans for priority areas under greatest land use pressure where the impact of biodiversity conservation will be the most significant
3.3  Refine the conservation targets and establish a monitoring system for the targets and outcomes
3.4  Investigate mechanisms, such as direct payment and others, that will enable the creation of small conservation areas in priority areas under high land use pressures
3.5  Synthesize research on best grazing practices and implement outreach programs based on findings
4.  Mainstream conservation priorities into land-use planning and policy-making 4.1  Interpret conservation plans and design suitable products for municipal planners and other land-use decisionmaking agencies
4.2  Increase the capacity of agencies to use these products to integrate biodiversity concerns into their operations and policies
5.  Increase awareness of the Succulent Karoo hotspot 5.1  Increase awareness of the Succulent hotspot and its unique biodiversity among local, subregional and national constituencies through a binational awareness campaign
5.2  Support efforts to publicize the biological importance of the Succulent Karoo hotspot
5.3  Support projects that educate stakeholders about threatened and unique species in the hotspot
6.  Create the capacity to catalyze the SKEP program 6.1  Support a small network of locally based champions that will represent biodiversity concerns at a subregional level and assist with the identification, monitoring and mentoring of small-scale conservation projects
6.2  Establish a small grants program aimed at promoting small-scale development of biodiversity-based livelihood projects

6.3  Establish a coordination unit to lead implementation of the SKEP program, including providing technical assistance to launch components of the strategy, rapidly reviewing potential CEPF projects and leveraging additional resources to ensure long-term financial sustainability

7. Reinforce and sustain the conservation gains achieved as a result of CEPF investment in the initial 5-year investment period for the region.



Tab 4

Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot



Tab 5

Core Documents
  • Succulent Karoo Program for Consolidation Document, September 2009
    English (PDF - 145 KB)

  • Ecosystem Profile, February 2003
    English (PDF - 497 KB)

  • Fact Sheet, September 2007
    English (PDF - 22KB)

  • GEF Focal Point Endorsements
    English (PDF - 1 MB)

Monitoring & Evaluation

  • Annual Portfolio Overview, August 2012
    English (PDF - 190 KB)

  • Annual Portfolio Overview, March 2011
    English (PDF - 513 KB)​

  • Assessing Five Years of CEPF Investment in the Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot, November 2008
    English (PDF - 380 KB)

  • CEPF and Poverty Reduction: A Review of the CEPF Succulent Karoo Portfolio, May 2006
    English (PDF - 239 KB)

  • Portfolio Overview, as of March 2005
    English (PDF - 142 KB)
    - Full related briefing book
    English (PDF - 3.5 MB)

  • Project Final Reports
    Reports compiled by project leaders detailing final results and lessons learned
    View reports


  • Biodiversity & Wine Initiative Newsletter
    - Vol. 2 Issue 2 July 2007
    English (PDF - 1.62 MB)
    - Vol. 2 Issue 1 January 2007
    English (PDF - 1.6 MB)

  • Brown Hyena Research Project Newsletter
    - Issue 43, September 2013
    English (PDF - 566 KB)
    - Issue 42, June 2013
    English (PDF - 356 KB)
    - Issue 41, March 2013
    English (PDF - 329 KB)
    Newsletter archive

  • CAPE Environment Newsletter, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa
    - Vol. 2 April, May, June, 2007
    English (PDF - 349 KB)

  • The Cape Leopard Trust Newsletter
    - June 2007
    English (PDF - 178 KB)
    - April 2007
    English (PDF - 37 KB)

  • The Golden Mole Newsletter
    - Vol. 11 No. 1, July 2013
    English (PDF - 1.1 MB)
    - Vol. 4 No. 1, September 2006
    English (PDF - 791 KB)
    - Vol. 3 No. 3, November 2005
    English (PDF - 1.2 MB), Namib Desert Envionmental Education Trust

  • NNF Newsletter
    - February 2013
    English (PDF - 294 KB)
    - January 2013
    English (PDF - 357 KB)

  • Namibia Nature Foundation Newsletter
    - September 2005
    English (PDF - 1.2 MB)

  • The Sub-region Namibia Annual Newsletter
    English (PDF - 812 KB), SKEP

  • Die VeePos, Conservation South Africa​
    - October 2013
    Afrikaans​ (PDF - 13 MB)

Other Publications

  • Summary of the Tax Incentives in Support of Protected Areas Expansion and Securing Threatened Ecosystems, Botanical Society Conservation Unit,  English (PDF - 175 KB)

  • The Annual Mole
    - 2006-2007 Annual Report
    English (PDF - 772 KB)
    - 2005-2006 Annual Report
    English (PDF - 703 KB), Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust

  • Best Practice Guidelines for Minimizing Impacts on the Flora of the Southern Namib
    English (PDF - 1 MB), EnviroScience

  • A Description of the Endemic Flora and Vegetation of the Kamiesberg Uplands, Namaqualand, South Africa
    English (PDF - 1.72 MB), Nick Helme

  • Project Update October 2005
    English (PDF - 25 KB), SKEP: Bushmanland Conservation Initiative

  • SKEP Progress Report 2006
    • Foreword and Contents
      (PDF - 3 MB)
    • Introduction
      English (PDF - 5 MB)
    • Strategic Focal Area 1
      English (PDF - 2.4 MB)
    • Strategic Focal Area 2
      English (PDF - 3 MB)
    • Strategic Focal Area 3
      English (PDF - 2.7 MB)
    • Strategic Focal Area 4
      - pages 20-24
      English (PDF - 4 MB)
      - pages 25-30
      English (PDF - 3.5 MB)
    • Acknowledgements
      English (PDF - 733 KB)
    • Appendix
      - Part 1
      English (PDF - 5.2 MB)
      - Part 2
      English (PDF - 4.3 MB)

Tab 6

Fast Fact

​Status: Closed 

Initial investment:
  • $7.9 million
  • 2003-2008
  • 89 grants
  • $1.4 million
  • 2010-2012
  • 5 grants
Regional Resources
Photos: Women weaving in the Succulent Karoo Hotspot © CI/Photo by John Martin; Succulent in quartz gravel ecosystem © C. Paterson-Jones; Flowers in Namaqualand © CI/Photo by Haroldo Castro