Scientists, policy makers and community representatives met recently to discuss the management of Prosopis, an invasive alien species occurring in the Molopo-Nossob river basin that covers part of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The Annual Regional Forum on Invasive Alien Species was convened by IUCN ESARO early this month in Gaborone, Botswana under the Kalahari-Namib project. It brought together participants from the riparian countries of Botswana, Namibia and S Africa drawn from government, academia, NGOs, private sector and community-based organizations.
Prosopis, commonly known as mesquite originates from South America and was introduced in Botswana with the intention of addressing desertification and the spread of sand dunes. In Namibia and South Africa, the plant was introduced to provide shade, wood-fuel and animal fodder.
The Forum discussed the threats and impacts of Prosopis on people’s livelihoods, the environment and the economy. Andrew Vellander from the Kgalagadi District Council in Botswana noted that people use Prosopis in a number of ways and some of its uses contribute to its spread. “Harvesting and feeding of pods to livestock contributes to the spread of Prosopis,” he noted.
Participants looked at different approaches for tackling Prosopis through a number of ways such as management and control, economic use and relevant policy and legislation. Citing case studies from other countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, IUCN Global Invasive Species Coordinator, Geoffrey Howard, pointed out that there is need for an integrated management plan that addresses the needs of those that depend on Prosopis while ensuring that its invasion is controlled and reduced – or at least prevented from spreading.
The Forum also recognised the importance of a regional approach for managing Prosopis that includes the harmonization of policies and legislation.
"The Kalahari-Namib Ecosystem is an important Transboundary asset for Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It is gratifying to see strong partnership between the countries, communities, IUCN and UNEP working together with the support of Global Environment Facility funding to tackle problems affecting that ecosystem,” remarked Mohamed Sessay, Senior Programme Manager and Officer-in-Charge for the GEF Biodiversity, Land Degradation and Biosafety Unit at UNEP.
The day before the Forum, the Regional Steering Committee of the Kalahari-Namib Project met to agree on priority areas that the project should focus on in addressing the problems affecting this dryland area. The Committee comprises government representatives from the three riparian countries, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), IUCN, Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Orange-Senqu River Basin Commission (OSASECOM).
In his welcoming remarks during the Regional Steering Committee meeting, Hastings Chikoko, Head of IUCN Office in South Africa emphasised the need for the three riparian countries to take a transboundary approach in addressing the problems in the Kalahari-Namib area considering that the area is a shared watercourse system. He advised the Steering Committee to ensure that the planned activities have basin-wide impacts.
Funded by GEF, the Kalahari Namib project is being implemented by UNEP and executed by IUCN ESARO (Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office) in collaboration with Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (Botswana), Ministry of Environment and Tourism (Namibia), and Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Affairs (South Africa).
The overall goal of the Kalahari-Namib project is to support communities and policy makers in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to effectively implement and upscale sustainable land management (SLM) in the Molopo-Nossob basin area and thereby contribute to improved livelihoods and the maintenance of the integrity and functioning of the entire Kalahari-Namib ecosystem.
For more information, please contact Sarah Gibbons, IUCN Regional Drylands Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org