The threat of invasive alien plants on the Agulhas Plain was central at a two-day workshop held between government, landowners and non-governmental organisations in April. The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI), coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) hosted the workshop aimed at strengthening invasive alien management in the area. This was the first get-together of its kind in the region.

ABI, a landscape initiative working in the Overberg, is coordinating the ABI Alien Clearing Project. The project has cleared approximately 30,000 hectares per year on the Plain over the past two years. It also created employment for 250 beneficiaries in the past year.

The project, which enters its third year now, receives funding from the Department of Environmental Affairs, through its Land User Incentive Scheme. It is supported through co-funding commitments from landowners, land user groups such as conservancies and NGOs.

The workshop, known as the Management, Research and Planning (MaReP) meeting, brought stakeholders involved in the project together with invasive alien management experts. The group addressed the successes and challenges of the Land User Incentive Scheme in general, and assessed the project’s model, implementation and roll-out over the past two years.

According to Professor Brian van Wilgen, of the Centre for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University, on a national scale, the problem of invasive alien plants is growing, despite clearing efforts. He said government had responded by introducing new Alien and Invasive Species Regulations, promulgated under the National Environmental Management: Biodiverstiy Act (NEMBA). The new regulations came into effect in October last year. The regulations make private landowners responsible to control invasive alien plant infestations, with state assistance available where appropriate.

One example of government assistance is the Land User Incentive Scheme. According to Thumeka Mdlazi, of the Natural Resource Management Programme in DEA, “The Land User Incentive Scheme presents a good platform for new approaches. Organisations are able to get going quicker and achieve results sooner. The scheme also breaks the ice and tension between government and landowners.”

The MaReP workshops sought to give landowners and land users access to specialist advice on invasive alien management, while also showcasing the on-the-ground challenges experienced by landowners and contractors to the various stakeholders. It also sought to strengthen the ties between the stakeholders.