uMhlathuze, South Africa

Photo by the National Business Initiative

Addressing the urban challenge

Breadth of the issue- How are the problem(s) that are being tackled by your initiative affecting citizens/local businesses or a significant component of the local wildlife?

Alien Invasive Plants (AIPs) represent a danger to biological diversity and water security, biological functioning and the productive use of land.  They increase soil erosion and heighten fire and flood impacts. AIPs divert amounts of water from productive uses. The following are impacts:

  • Impact on water security – AIPs threaten indigenous plants by utilizing more resources.  An estimated 1.44 billion m³ of water is lost to AIPs – enough to provide 3.38 million households with water for a year or irrigate 120 000 hectares of cropland.  Alien trees and shrubs increase above-ground biomass and evapotranspiration, decreasing surface water runoff and groundwater recharge.
  • Degradation of ecosystems – Forests, grasslands, wetlands, and lakes are ecosystems that provide many services and benefits to the economy, society, and the environment.  These ecosystems provide shelter and food for wildlife, remove pollutants from air and water, produce oxygen through photosynthesis and provide valuable recreational and educational opportunities. AIPs impact species diversity and species richness by competing for resources such a slight, moisture and soil nutrients that indigenous plants require to grow. Changes in species composition may affect wildlife that is adapted to indigenous plant communities. 
  • Socio-economic – AIPs have a large economic impact on individual landowners.
  • Interference with Agriculture – AIPs can have a negative impact on the agricultural industry by being hosts for new or existing crop diseases and crop pests; they can reduce crop yields and require increased use of pesticides increasing costs. There is an estimated 13500 hectares of AIPs in the catchment.
Depth of the issue – How seriously are the problems being tackled by your initiative impacting the life of the citizens/businesses/wildlife concerned?

The city of uMhlathuze is committed to offering its citizens a better quality of life through sustainable and inclusive economic growth (uMhlathuze IDP, 2021-2022). The uMhlathuze catchment has been a priority, stressed catchment for a number of years because of the high demand for water from growing settlements and industrial sectors. Because of the drought that occurred, it aggravated the water scarcity situation and triggered an accelerated response from government and partly the private sector in terms of developing solutions to curb the impact of the drought and ensure continued economic growth.

Invasive alien plants have severe consequences on the environment (Mosai, 2004).  When alien plants are introduced into an ecosystem they grow prolifically, and threaten indigenous plants by using more resources, in particular water, which ultimately depletes soil moisture and reduces groundwater recharge, affecting the flow of water in rivers and streams (uWaSP, 2019).  Farmers whose crops are invaded by alien species face the problem of having their crops not growing and end up losing their crops because of these alien plants as they compete with the crops for resources, particularly water.