Green Mambas eradicate alien plants

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The Green Mambas upliftment initiative provides single mothers from the Mdhuku community near Hluhluwe with environmental skills that allow them to earn a direct income. Fourteen members currently play their part in conservation, mainly by eradicating invasive plant species in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The team has cleared around 90 hectares of reserve land in the Hluhluwe areas that were infested with paraffin bush (Chromolaena odorata) and yellow bells (Tecoma stans),” says Clinton Wright, co-founder of the Wild Tomorrow Fund. “Their efforts have been extremely successful and we have had no regrowth.”

A single Chromolaena plant can produce over a million seeds and smothers natural vegetation.
“In the beginning some people were sceptical, but once we completed the first project, the results spoke for themselves,” Wright adds.

“The project is in its early days and we are still working on fire training programmes, plastic clean-ups and improving alien plant eradication knowledge to include weeds like smelter’s bush (Flaveria bidentis), bugweed (Solanum mauritianum) and famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus).

“As the project grows the team will eventually have their own mini business, and the projects will be owned and managed by the members,” he adds. “The aim is to branch out into entrepreneurial ventures like honey, marula products, indigenous plant nurseries, litter education and clean-up, indigenous plant reintroductions, and carbon sequestration projects.

“All of these projects require training, legislation and safety protocols to make them sustainable so that they can have a bigger impact for conservation. Ideally, each project will lead to skills transfers that can be taken directly back into the community.”

The marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) is economically important, as it is used locally to make traditional beer, jams and sweets. Marula oil and marula nuts are becoming increasingly popular as natural health products. The team will also focus on the spekboom (Portulacaria afra) and ilala palm (Hyphaene coriacea). The aim is to grow the initiative to three or four groups of approximately 10–12 women.

Written by Georgina Lockwood

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