'Look out for the bright yellow t-shirts'
The ABI Alien Clearing Project officially launched on Thursday 18 July, as the project's Implementation Committee met at Van Brakel Store. Alien clearing contractors and the project’s beneficiaries, land user groups including conservancies and farmer’s associations, parastatals, municipalities and non-governmental organisations met to finalise implementation.
The project, coordinated by ABI, sees the Department of Environmental Affairs and land user groups work closely together in a new alien clearing strategy. The Department made funding available to the tune of R18-million to the area over the next three years.
In the project, 215 jobs will be created, with some 28,000 hectares set to be cleared in the first year alone. Currently 21 teams are out in the veld working across the Agulhas Plain. This will rise to 23 teams in the coming weeks.
According to the project's coordinator, Roger Bailey, clearing teams will have covered nearly 9000 hectares by the end of the first quarter. That equals more than 10,000 person days. He said visitors to the area will be able to recognise the teams by their bright yellow t-shirts.
The project will not only create jobs and livelihoods for thousands of beneficiaries. It will also offer major biodiversity benefits for an area considered of vital conservation importance for its endangered fynbos and critically-endangered renosterveld. Studies estimate some 40 percent of the Plain’s natural vegetation is infested by aliens.
Bailey said, “The Agulhas Plain is a well-known biodiversity hotspot. So this project can offer some relief to those areas of high biodiversity value that are threatened by invasive aliens.”
The annual planning for the first year has been completed. For next year, planning will already start before the end of 2013.