But actually – what you’re looking at is the scene of terrible environmental devastation happening in front of our eyes! On the lower Breede river in the Western Cape you will find kilometre after kilometre of enormous old Eucalyptus trees which are literally sucking up water from the river to the tune of millions of litres a year! This is a major contributor to the water crisis the Western Cape suffered a couple of years ago.
What’s worse, is they are all standing with their feet in what is called the river ‘riparian zones’, an environmentally sensitive area that is there to manage the river in flood and stabilise it’s banks. Riparian areas supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals and serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats for a variety of wildlife. Trees and grasses in riparian areas stabilize streambanks and reduce floodwater velocity, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks. Because these trees often kill any other plant life around them, most of the natural vegetation is long gone. In the Breede Valley, it’s the Palmiet that holds the banks together with deep and hardy roots that has been eliminated from the banks by these trees.
The Inhlabathi team is working on a commercially driven FSC project with local stakeholders in the area to eliminate the invasive eucalypts, sell the timber and biomass into local and international value chains, and drive the restoration of the indigenous riverine forests and biodiversity. We hope to release millions of litres of water back into the water systems of the Western Cape, and provide jobs and small business opportunities for locals in the area. Partners like the FSC, CMO Group Scheme, Department of Agriculture; Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, and local farmers are all working together to make this dream a reality.