The objective of the BATOBIC Programme is the development of sustainable nature-based, adventure and cultural tourism in both a regional (Tourism and Biodiversity Corridor) and sub-regional context, through an integrated approach. This project is run by the Barberton Chamber of Business with funding contributions from the National Department of Tourism and several other sponsors.
There is no other region in southern Africa of comparable size that has the same richness of natural heritage (world renown geology, plants and animal species). The BATOBIC Programme aims to develop the area for the protection of the ecosystems and species represented while at the same time driving its sustainable tourism utilisation. The corridor contains a significant number of publicly, communal and privately owned nature reserves. These protected areas provide a range of different natural habitats and opportunities for nature based tourism. The major existing nature reserves include Mountainlands Nature Reserve, Songimvelo, Barberton Nature Reserve, Mara Conservancy in South Africa and Malolotja, Mlilwane, Phoponyane, Hlane, Ndindza, Mbuluzi, Shewlya in Swaziland.
Socio-economic objectives include the development of the area as a world-class nature based tourism destination; to increase the rate of economic growth and to create tourism and conservation-led employment opportunities. The aim is also to create a more diversified sub-regional economy for the area; to mobilise private sector investment and expertise for tourism and conservation; and to increase the nature and extent of benefits that flow to rural communities.
Biodiversity conservation objectives include the development of a sustainable management and biodiversity conservation system; to enhance the overall institutional capacity to manage biodiversity; to conserve and / or to rehabilitate areas with a high existing or potential biodiversity value; and to demonstrate the strong positive relationship between the conservation of biodiversity and tourism development.
While the process to finalise UNESCO World Heritage Site status is underway the BATOBIC Programme is ensuring that the area benefits economically from its rich natural and cultural heritage, including the World Heritage Site. The projects of the BATOBIC Programme are designed to lay the developmental foundations of the World Heritage Site by showcasing the heritage of the area and packaging it for tourism consumption.
As part of its implementation plans the programme identified ten major anchor projects. Mountainlands Nature Reserve is one of these projects, together with a range of ancillary projects to support establishment and development of the reserve.