By Mick D’Alton

The alien invasive plants are the biggest threat to our area and a permanent solution to their control is desperately needed. As they increase over our lands and mountains, they smother our fynbos, rivers and wetlands, they soak up our water, change the natural nutrients in the soil, cause devastating fires and erosion and change the character of our beautiful area.

With that change we lose essential water for our livelihoods, raise our vulnerability to wildfires and loss of fertile soils and we also lose the vast untapped potential of nature-based education and tourism.

And most of all we lose those natural functioning ecosystems with all their benefits to mankind and their biodiversity that excite the naturalists and surround our daily lives, giving us the privilege to wander in and marvel at nature.

Clearing aliens is a very expensive operation and very few of us can afford to accomplish this on our own. Many landowners already keep huge areas clear of aliens through our agricultural practices where the expense is justified and can be absorbed by the potential income. This could be for planting crops or pastures or for protecting veld containing marketable flowers. Unfortunately few can afford the expense of clearing land that brings no direct income to offset the expense, this leaves the rivers and streams and the beautiful, but not financially beneficial veld neglected and allowed to become altered permanently.

Each member of the NWSMA remains the owner of his land with all its benefits and is therefore also liable for all the normal maintenance, legal requirements and other expenses on his land, which includes alien clearing. The NWSMA strives to assist the members where possible by sourcing alien clearing funding and by coordinating all alien clearing operations and to implement them in a strategic manner in order to gain the maximum benefit for all. Free herbicide was also sourced this year from the DEA and made available to the members and many who were clearing themselves were assisted through this project.

Some alien clearing is done under specific projects, such as the WWF South Africa project while the majority of alien clearing is through the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) run project of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and these always have many conditions attached. Funds are only available for labour to clear, transport of clearing teams and for some herbicide. In most instances the NWSMA carries the cost of applying for funds, attending management meetings and dealing with DEA and the Project Implementers, planning and selecting the areas to be cleared, on-site supervision, provision of water for herbicide mix and all administration, on behalf of the members taking part.

 

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Recently the DEA requirements have become more stringent with very accurate mapping and quality control demanded. This was always done by us but now we need an intermediate organisation to perform these duties for us to enable us to access this funding and to avoid the risk of high penalties if these requirements are not met. A small levy, amounting to a very small percentage of the total clearing cost, is asked from the landowner and is based on the number of person/days spent clearing on their land.

The NWSMA Management Team is currently drafting a new Management Plan for the whole area. Part of this plan covers alien clearing and fire and a new integrated Fire and Alien Clearing plan is being developed in an effort to help curb the spread of aliens. Our aim is to find ways to clear more areas and to be of more assistance to our members. Your cooperation in fighting this threat in the future in a proactive manner is desperately needed and will be of great benefit to all our members.

 

Summary of all alien clearing work done from April 2019 to March 2020:

 

  • Area cleared 1,440ha (WWF 260ha and ABI 1,180ha)
  • Total amount of funding R 1,320,000 (WWF R 420,000 and ABI R 900,000)
  • Total amount of landowner contributions for additional costs Rand R 68,700
  • Total amount of NWSMA contribution for additional costs R 268,000 (WWF R 125,000 and ABI R 143,000)
  • Total alien clearing cost R 1,588,000