CAPE TOWN - In a bid to preserve catchment areas and reduce soil erosion but also to create jobs, Nedbank and WWF have embarked on a drive to clear Mzongwana in the Eastern Cape of all its invasive trees.
The initiative was created after it became clear that the Keurbooms River catchment was under threat of being completely dried up by condensed black wattle and other alien trees.
"This kind of project is not negotiable, there is an increase of alien infestation of over 10% of the landmass per year. Its unsustainable and we are already many years down the crisis", says Environmental Scientist and a founder director of Eden to Addo, Pam Booth.
According to Environmental Scientist, Sissie Matele, "The land is life. Once people understand that when we take care of our land, we sustain ourselves. It is mother nature and has to be looked after".
The catchment is drying up at a devastating rate.This in turn has affected the soil which has now become infertile.
The rural town of Mzongwana has an unemployment rate of 30%. Moreover 40% of the people living in the area are below the poverty line (R800 per month).
In addition to this, the Umzimvubu river, the third largest river in Southern Africa, draining over 2 million hectares, supports more than 1 million people.
With water flowing off the Umzimvubu landscape, approximately R27 million of water is wasted each year.
In 2014, non-government organisation (NGO) Eden to Addo secured three years of funding worth R7.7 million from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
This funding was secured for the clearing of alien vegetation in the Keurbooms River Catchment.
Eco-rangers within the village are appointed to clear the alien vegetation. Notably, there is a quota that at least 50% of women should be employed by this initiative who earn R105 per day.
"We have five teams of twenty per team", said Manager of Working for Water, Sibusiso Mkize.
In August and September 2014, they cleared approximately 55 hectares in the riparian zone which was 90% dense with wattle.
"It is in my complete and utter belief that we cannot thrive as people without ensuring the care and survival of earth’s varied species and habitats", said WWF Nedbank Green Trust Communications and Marketing Co-ordinator, Nomonde Mxhalisa.
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