Ricochet News

Call for public-private partnership in fight against invasive plant species

Aug 21, 2018
Call for public-private partnership in fight against invasive plant species

Landowners urged to join fight to increase run-off to dams amid crippling drought

THE Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB) has called on private landowners to take a vested interest in the fight against alien invasive plant species, which are robbing the Eastern Cape’s supply dams of critical run-off from rains.

This as the Department of Environmental Affairs has renewed its contract with the irrigation board to roll out the province-wide “Working For” Natural Resource Management programmes – a move which will sustain 2,000 jobs throughout the Eastern Cape annually.

In addition to job creation, the contract also seeks to clear non-indigenous vegetation in a bid to maximise run-off to the province’s dams amid increasingly crippling drought conditions.

Under the new three-year contract, GIB will manage four major project categories – Working for Water, Wetlands, Forestry and Ecosystems [Editor’s note: see Project Sidebar]. The renewal confirms GIB’s status as a trusted regional service provider, responsible for managing various water-related projects on behalf of national government since 1999. Its project footprint extends across the province – from Tsitsikamma in the west to Lusikisiki in the east and north to Matatiele.

Over the past five years, GIB contractors have cleared a total of 547 697 hectares of alien invasive plants. One hectare covers roughly the same area as an international rugby field.

“While funding for this is, in part, covered under the new contract, a lot more money is needed to have the desired impact,” said GIB financial and HR manager, Rienette Colesky.

“Should more [private] land owners come to the party to contribute to these costs, we would be able to clear more land, faster,” Colesky said, adding that where landowners contributed towards the cost of clearing, they were also more committed to keeping their land clear of these alien “invasives”.

She said the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Nemba) required landowners to keep their land free from alien invasive plants.

“The government can subsidise only so much. We need clean catchments, but we can only do it with public-private partnerships,” said Colesky.

GIB chief executive officer Pierre Joubert said the organisation was delighted to be given the opportunity to continue the work it had been doing successfully for almost two decades.

“It is vitally important for us to be involved in poverty alleviation, while at the same time improving flow of water into the dams, which is now more important than ever, in view of the crippling drought.”

The board enlists the services of over 300 SMME contractors annually to assist with project implementation. Employing an average of 11 employees per team, this creates a positive economic impact for at least 3 000 additional beneficiaries and their households.

“Working For” Project Overview

What each of the Working For projects encompasses and what the Gamtoos Irrigation Board will do to implement the plan of action:


VISION: To prevent, contain and reduce the density and distribution of established, invasive alien species to reduce their negative effects on the environment.

ACTION: Gamtoos Irrigation Board rolls out both terrestrial alien invasive clearing projects and those aimed at waterweeds.

GIB also manages two indigenous plant nurseries, which provide the stock for the repopulating of cleared and degraded land.


VISION: To regain natural habitat composition, structure and function, to enhance the delivery of ecosystem services, improve the productive potential of the land, and to develop the market for ecosystem services.

ACTION: Gamtoos Irrigation Board works to restore the biodiversity of degraded areas through the planting of spekboom thicket. GIB also rehabilitates areas where dryland erosion has taken place and where soil stabilisation measures are required.


VISION: To rehabilitate wetlands to restore hydrological functions that underpin water flow and quality regulation.

ACTION: Gamtoos Irrigation implements both major and minor structural interventions to reduce the degradation of natural wetlands. By building these structures, such as gabions and concrete weirs, GIB helps to rehabilitate the wetlands to improve water quality and ensure the consistent flow of water.


VISION: To improve the management of woody biomass resources to reduce the risk of invasions, increase biodiversity and deliver socio-economic benefits.

ACTION: Gamtoos Irrigation Board improves the management of Category B commercial forests and plantations. GIB also rehabilitates indigenous forests and restores forest loss caused by alien invasives or human activity. A dedicated nursery supplies indigenous plants for the replanting of deforested areas.

Main image: WORKING FOR WATER:The clearing of alien invasive plant species forms a major component of the Natural Resource Management programmes, which Gamtoos Irrigation Board manages on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs in the Eastern Cape. Supplied


Above: WORKING FOR WETLANDS:Gamtoos Irrigation Board contractors at work on a concrete weir, which assists with the rehabilitation of natural wetlands to improve water quality and ensure consistent flow of water to the Eastern Cape’s major supply dams. Supplied