Challenges and solutions to managing and controlling the spread of invasive Prosopis in dryland ecosystems

 The Kalahari-Namib programme hosted a side event at the eleventh meeting of the United Nations Framework to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of Parties (COP) on Monday 16 September 2013 in the Rio Pavillion. The event explored the challenges and solutions to managing and controlling the spread of invasive Prosopis in dryland ecosystems through an introductory participatory video, a high level panel discussion and an informal dialogue.

Dr Mohammed Sessay (left) and Mr Alex Banda (middle),  during the eleventh meeting of the United Nations Framework to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of Parties (COP) Prosopis Side Event

 The participatory video portrayed how the Kalahari-Namib Ecosystem system in Southern Africa is under threat from alien invasive plants, particularly Prosopis. This invasive plant, commonly known as mesquite, introduced from Mexico and the USA, is causing loss of biodiversity, change in habitat, local extinction of species, loss of soil moisture and increasingly drier conditions leading to land degradation and desertification. By capturing community members and farmers perspectives; experiences are shared on the livelihood challenges faced by communities in the Kalahari.

A high level panel discussion involving representatives from the Government of Botswana, Government of South Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat as well as IUCN’s Global Invasive Species Programme shared experiences on management and control initiatives at national, regional and global levels.

On behalf of the SADC Secretariat, Mr Banda spoke of the regional threat of invasive alien species, particularly Prosopis (mesquite) to the environment, people and the economy, highlighting the value of transboundary Programmes likes the Kalahari-Namib Project in assisting the SADC member states to address land degradation caused by invasive plants.

Ms Nompumelelo Claribel Ntlokwana of the Government of South Africa spoke of their success in managing invasive species like Prosopis due to strong legislation (e.g. Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, Act No. 43 of 1983), provision of extension services at community level for land management, supportive government initiatives like the Landcare and Working for Water Programmes, and aftercare programmes to monitor and manage the risk of new invasions.

Dr Mmasera Manthe-Tsuaneng from Botswana highlighted the progress Botswana has made in developing a strategy and legislation to address Prosopis, and the work of the Government to raise awareness on invasive species at a local level. She underlined the value of transboundary collaboration and learning to integrate and harmonise approaches to alien invasive species management at an ecosystem level.
Dr Geoffrey Howard emphasised the need for well conceptualised programmes to manage an invasion, for economic valuation studies to guide actions and strong monitoring, aftercare and risk assessment. He emphasised that governments needed to respond more seriously with resources to manage invasive species, sharing some of the drawbacks experienced with the re-introduction of water hyacinth (a devastating water weed) in Lake Victoria, East Africa.

The moderator Dr Mohammed Sessay of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) closed the event by calling on SADC Secretariat to take forward the recommendations of the event to a higher level at the African Union in order to encourage African governments to take the threat of invasive alien species more seriously as a land degradation issue.

With experiences shared from representatives of countries like Australia, Israel, the Sultan of Oman and India, it is clear that the challenge of Prosopis extends beyond the Kalahari-Namib Ecosystem and global learning and collaboration is the only solution to effectively combat the spread.

The Kalahari Namib Programme of work is implemented through the Kalahari Namib Project implemented by UNEP and executed by IUCN in partnership with the Governments of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa; the Securing Rights and Restoring Landscapes Project funded by the European Commission and the USAID/IUCN Programme on Applying the Ecosystem Approach into Integrated Water Resources Management in the Orange-Senqu Basin.

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