The South African WeedBuster Week represents the annual culmination and highlight of the ongoing campaign aimed at the management and containment of invasive alien plants. The campaign is an initiative led by the Department of Environmental Affairs through the Environmental Programmes branch, and supported by various partners and stakeholders. The South African campaign is linked to the invasive plant control initiatives by countries such as Australia and New Zealand, as well as to the broader Global Invasive Species Programme.
The Working for Water Programme is the largest public-funded intitiative aimed at managing invasive alien plants in the world, and an excellent example of integrating environmental conservation and poverty alleviation objectives.
Much remains to be done towards increasing public awareness on the issue of invasive alien plants, promoting voluntary pro-active responses and community ownership of initiatives aimed at the management and containment of invasive alien plants (IAPs). WeedBuster Week is aimed at supporting these objectives.
“Goggas nip weeds in the bud”.
The theme “Goggas nip weeds in the bud” has been chosen for the 2012 WeedBuster campaign, and aims to focus on the use of biological control as a method to manage invasive alien plants.Van Wilgen et al., 2011 stated that “Biological control involves the use of introduced agents (plant-feeding insects and mites, and plant pathogens) with the aim of reducing the fecundity, ‘fitness’ and ‘invasiveness’ of the target weeds, to bring about declining populations and reductions in the rate of spread of the problem plants”. Biological control can provide complete control of the problem plant, or else augment and reduce the need for using herbicide l or mechanical clearing. As a management practice, the biological control of weeds is an attractive option because: (i) it is relatively cheap and very safe compared with the costs and risks associated with using herbicide; (ii) it can be successfully integrated with other management practices; and (iii) it is self-sustaining.
The use of biological control in South Africa has a long history going as far back as 1913 when Cactoblastis cactorum, the cactus moth was used on Opuntia ficus-indica, in the Eastern Cape by the Department of Agriculture. With the advent of the Working for Water Programme a coordinated investment into biological control research and implementation has yielded around 43 bio-control agents being released on over 50 weed species in the last 11 years. We currently invest over R20 million in research and implementation into biological control, and a further R4 million contributed from partnerships with the Agricultural Research Council and academic institutions.
The use of biological control agents is of course not without risks, but the extensive research protocols in place to ensure that before agents are released they only impact on target species, has meant that there has not been any unintended target species affected thus far in South Africa.
Therefore, all reasonable efforts must be made to determine the host preferences and the safety of the agents, and the possible impacts and benefits, prior to their release.
About 40 % of the introduced taxa were rejected by researchers or have been shelved because of concerns about their safety; and 20% are still in quarantine undergoing further stringent testing (Klein 2011). Crucially, during all this time there have never been any reports of introduced biological control agents in South Africa that have significantly damaged any crop plants or native species (Moran et al. 2005). Van Wilgen et al., 2012 stated that in practice, since 1913, 271 agent taxa, ie. species, subspecies, and biotypes, have been introduced into South Africa for testing: 40% of these were eventually deemed to be safe according to the official regulations that were current at the time (Klein et al. 2011), and were released.
Sesbania punicea, or red sesbania is one of the success stories for biological control as the three agents released on the species have decreased infestations considerably over the last 60 years, to such an extent that it is now regarded ‘under complete control’.
The Working for Water program has created 36,000 jobs during the 2011-2012 financial year through clearing of invasive alien plants, of which 18,000 were women, 22 000 were youth, and 500 disabled and managing to spend some R819 million.
Below are summaries of the employment opportunities created in the Northern Cape region, area and project. The general performance of the projects in the region has been affected negatively as a result of the transfer of the programme from DWA to DEA; the major challenge of the transfer being of SCM in nature. As a result less than half the planned Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs were achieved in the financial year 2011/2012 compared to a relatively good achievement of 95% in the previous year.
Similar challenges are being faced in the current year (2011-2012), with the continued SCM setup, but the staff in the region and national office is working hard to improve the situation and ensure that employment opportunities targeted are achieved.
- Media release: Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi to embark on WeedBuster Awareness Campaign
- WeedBuster celebration programme: order of proceedings [PDF - 3.90 mb]
- WeedBuster celebration programme: activities programme [PDF - 2.96 mb]