Invasive riparian species control and forest landscape restoration leveraging private engagement
In the south of the Western Cape of South Africa, only a limited number of precious untouched Afromontane Forest remain, harbouring three to seven times more tree species compared to other Southern Hemisphere forests. Yet, these havens have dwindled due to agricultural expansion and invasive species encroachment. This transformative IKI Small Grants initiative adopts a Forest Landscape Restoration approach. The project equips two conservancy staff with skills in nursery management, seed harvesting, and propagation, subsequently transferring these capabilities to eight Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises, with a deliberate emphasis on empowering women participants. The project stands as the beacon of a professional nursery, nurturing 25,000 plants. Additionally, the establishment of two demonstration sites not only cultivates expertise but also fuels the momentum of restoration efforts.
In the south of the Western Cape of South Africa, preserving natural Afromontane Forest patches is a paramount concern. Amid this landscape, the Grootvadersbosch Forest stands strong, spanning 430 hectares as the region’s largest forest patch. Yet, beyond its borders, fragmented forest patches dot the agricultural expanse. Modernity is coming dangerously close to these ecosystems from several sides: through the steady expansion of agriculture, the spread of invasive alien plants, and through changing fire patterns due to climate change and land use. Since 2014, over 55 kilometres of riparian land has been cleared of invasive vegetation, revealing a glimmer of hope. Nevertheless, the project is poised for active restoration, an endeavour to rejuvenate the forests’ vitality. These forthcoming steps, coupled with dedicated invasive alien vegetation control, will bolster the fragmented forest patches.
The focal audience of the project comprises employees from Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises, engaged by the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy (GVBC) for invasive alien vegetation clearance. These enterprises collectively employ a minimum of twelve individuals each, dedicated to environmental projects. Situated within the target region’s rural municipalities, an estimated 90,000 residents call this region home. An unsettling backdrop of over 20 per cent unemployment accentuates the significance of the endeavour. Among the primary beneficiaries are local community members who actively participate in the eradication of invasive vegetation. With a contribution of 3,520 working days, the project stands as a beacon of employment restoration, illuminating pathways toward sustainable livelihoods.
APPROACH AND ACTIVITIES
The IKI Small Grants project tackles regional restoration challenges through the dual strategies of invasive species clearance and native tree replanting. Expert conservancy staff, well-versed in restoration practices and possessing a profound knowledge of local flora, undergo specialised training. Their comprehensive education encompasses diverse areas, spanning nursery and restoration management, seed harvesting, compost production, plant propagation, as well as the strategic domains of restoration management and planning. Once equipped with these skills, they are imparted to 30 employees within small and medium enterprises, with a notable emphasis on female engagement.
Following these training sessions, the focus shifts to establishing a tree nursery responsible for nurturing 25,000 plants representing a minimum of 30 diverse forest species. Once this thriving nursery takes root, it becomes the foundation for the creation of two demonstration sites, spanning a collective area of five hectares. These sites are carefully curated not only to enhance expertise but also to galvanize efforts toward restoration.
The project extends its impact by disseminating the benefits of restoration services widely. A dynamic approach is embraced, encompassing networking events in collaboration with partners and restoration specialists. Quarterly newsletters, the GVBC website, and social media platforms become conduits for the promotion and heightened awareness of restoration endeavours.
IKI Small Grants supports Grootvadersbosch Conservancy in their organisational capacity development through:
- Training courses on GIS mapping and bookkeeping software, and MS Excel
- Project management course and leadership training
- Communication skills in a multicultural context, governance, and fundraising for non-profits as well as social media marketing
- Training of staff on river monitoring, rehabilitation in riparian environments, application of SASS
- Health and safety incident reporting
ABOUT THE ORGANISATION
Established in 1992, the GVBC operates as a non-profit trust, embodying the aspirations of private landowners within the Grootvadersbosch region. As a dynamic conservancy, its core mission revolves around attaining vital environmental goals while fostering employment opportunities and ameliorating poverty. United under the conservancy’s umbrella, members collaborate to advance eco-tourism, optimise fire management, restore ecosystems, and impart environmental education. This inclusive endeavour extends its embrace to encompass private landowners and rural communities alike, jointly benefiting from enhanced employment prospects and enriched ecosystem services. Notably, the GVBC holds the distinction of being the Western Cape’s inaugural conservancy, representing a pioneering force in sustainable conservation practices.