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Gekco hosts invasive species workshop

BEAULIEU – On 30 October Gekco held a free workshop with government authorities on invasive species for residents to learn what they can do about the issue.

November 9, 2019 | Robyn Kirk | Midrand Reporter

Gecko chairperson Kristin Kallesen, DAFF extension officer Concilence Sambo, GDARD assistant director Patrick Lebeya and DAFF control resource officer for land use and soil management Phyllystas Ramatsemela Mmakola. Photo: Robyn Kirk

The Greater Kyalami Conservancy (Gekco) hosted the first of two free workshops for residents to learn more about invasive species on 30 October.

Representatives from the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) and the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) joined residents, property owners and other stakeholders at the Beaulieu Bird Sanctuary for the workshop. The presentations focused on explaining the laws surrounding invasive species as well as landowners’ responsibilities.

“It’s nice to see residents here from Beaulieu, Glenferness and other areas,” said Kristin Kallesen, the chairperson for Gekco. “It is vital for us to start looking at the impact of invasive species here, as they definitely take a toll on the area.

“Over the past few years, we’ve particularly seen how pompom weeds [an invasive species] has impacted the area, particularly the habitat where the grass owls live.”

Gekco will be paying particular attention to pompom weeds in the area in the coming months.

The first presentation on the day was given by Phyllystas Ramatsemela Mmakola, who is the control resource auditor for land use and soil management for DAFF. Her presentation focused on explaining the laws which govern invasive species regulations. “The Conservation of Agriculture Resources Act (Cara) places invasive species into three categories. Category 1 is invader plants that must be removed and destroyed immediately (including queen of the night, red water fern and pompom weed). Category 2 plants have the potential to become invasive, but may be grown under controlled conditions in permitted areas (such as black wattle and grey poplar). Category 3 plants have ornamental value and allowed to be kept under controlled circumstances (like white mulberry).”

DAFF extension officer Concilence Sambo’s presentation covered the impact and consequences of invasive species. He explained that homeowners have a legal duty to manage species on their land, and that failure to do so can lead to legal ramifications, referencing the first criminal case involving the issues between the state and Granada Home Builders. “Harbouring invasive species is a Schedule 1 criminal offence.”

In that case, the landowner was found guilty of the offence and was sentenced to pay a R50 000 fine or two years’ imprisonment. Sambo added that this was a rare case that went to court only because the landowner ignored repeated warnings. He also commended attendees for taking the time to learn about and tackle the issues.

Patrick Lebeya, the assistant director of GDARD, was also present and acted as emcee for the day. For readers who would like to participate in this workshop, a second one will be held on 6 November at the Inanda Country Base from 11am until 1pm.

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