New alien clearing strategy rolled out on Plain
A brand new strategy to tackle invasive alien plants on private land is currently being planned and rolled out on the Agulhas Plain. The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) is playing a lead role in the ABI Alien Clearing Programme. It has seen land users, NGOs and government working together to plan this pilot programme.
The Department of Environmental Affairs, through its ‘Land User Incentive Scheme’, made funding available for invasive alien clearing on private land late last year. It’s the first scheme of its kind, and will aim to employ thousands of jobless people nationally through Expanded Public Works Programme funding.
It will also address the increasing threats created by invasive alien plants. According to recent studies, nearly a quarter of the Agulhas Plain has been heavily invaded by alien species. This is posing a major threat to this biodiversity hotspot. Although funding for alien clearing has been available on government land, around 70 percent of the region is in private hands.
According to Roger Bailey, Coordinator of the ABI Alien Clearing Programme, land users can now access this funding for the first time. “This programme allows for a new way of working between land user groups and government – while being strategic about our clearing efforts. The idea is for the funding to be used as efficiently as possible. But at the same time, it will entail an effort and contributions from all stakeholders involved.”
ABI has been awarded R18-million over the next three years. However, it’s hoped this will become a 20-year alien clearing programme, to ensure gains made are maintained. The programme ensures land users are involved through their land user groups. Stakeholders in the programme are responsible for co-funding.
In order to launch the programme, an ABI Alien Clearing Coordination planning meeting was held in February this year. At this meeting, representatives of land user groups, mostly conservancies from the project area, were nominated to serve on an Implementation Committee. Landowner organisations that meet the participation criteria will now be contracted to implement the programme. There was consensus that the primary focus for the first year be on funding areas that require labour-intensive follow-up work.
Bailey says the annual workplan is currently being compiled, which will be used as the alien clearing blueprint. He says, “We are happy with how the process has evolved to date, with all stakeholders showing their willingness to play their part. It has been a group effort including land users, municipalities, government departments and parastatals like CapeNature. There’s a long way to go – but the foundation has been laid for the programme.”
It is hoped alien clearing activities will be launched in May 2013.