AUSTRALIA BUYS BACK GUM TREES AND IMPROVES SA’s WATER SAVING
The first massive Eucalyptus trees have been felled in the mid-Breede River area in a ‘value adding chain’ project that will return seven million litres of water per hectare cleared per year to the river system. Much of the gum tree wood will be sold back to Australia, where it came from.
The win-win project represents a collaboration between the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s LandCare Areawide Planning initiative, Inhlabati Environmental Services, the farming community, private enterprise and local SMMEs, which will benefit from training and development by Avocado Vision to ensure their sustainability and increased job creation. LandCare Areawide Planning is a comprehensive problem solving process that integrates social, economic and ecological concerns over defined geographical areas to sustain environmental health through a natural resource management approach incorporating locally driven initiatives.
Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, says that their commitment to sustainably manage biodiversity lies in partnerships with the above-mentioned organisations and entities. He believes that it is necessary to prevent biodiversity loss and take steps to mitigate the negative impact of unsustainable farming practices and climate change. Not protecting the country’s ecological infrastructure will lead to the collapse of the natural ecosystem, resulting in higher pollution incidents and an increase in invasive alien plant (IAP) infestations which will decrease the availability and quality of water. This will create ideal conditions for soil erosion, land degradation and loss of biodiversity.
The removal of IAP species has been shown to be the least expensive and most effective means of avoiding another ‘Day Zero’ in Cape Town and surrounds. According to Louise Stafford, Director of Water Funds at The Nature Conservancy, research showed that in 2019, IAP removal was the most cost-effective intervention, delivering the highest potential water saving.
Rudolph Roscher, LandCare district manager in the Cape winelands district says that in implementing the plan and working together with the farming community, IAPs along this riparian zone were identified as one of the primary causes of the natural resource decline. A potential saving of millions of rands of government funding has taken place due to the private investment to harvest the wood, while also delivering the benefits of water saving, land restoration, job creation and SMME development.
David Gardner, director of Inhlabathi, says the first felling of the IAP trees represents an important milestone in the Western Cape’s sustainable water saving journey, and is the start of an approach that incorporates 100% clearing of eucalyptus trees from river areas, ensuring that maximum value is extracted from the felled trees, and that a certified programme of aftercare is implemented to return the river ecosystem to its original state.
To ensure sustainability, Inhlabathi is also working with the Forest Stewardship Council to set up a resource management unit that is assessing the IAP species, the size of the trees, their potential for commercial use, chip production for soil invigoration and full restoration of the cleared land.
Avocado Vision, an Inhlabathi affiliate and parent company of the Green Business Value chain, is implementing a training incubator where small businesses with potential will be trained to run sustainable operations that go beyond clearing the biomass, possibly into charcoal or chip production.