Sustainable use and greening in one : Seeing forest for the trees

An amount of $50 000 (R417 000) has been provisionally approved for a project aimed at the conservation and restoration of the Dukuduku forest between Mtubatuba and St Lucia.

The Glodal Evironment Facillity (GEF) has granted conditional approval for the funding for the Dukubuku wood carvers and reforestation project, through its small grants programme, to be implemented by the UNDP .

The announcement was made during a media tour of the Manukelana indigenous nursery, also GEF and UNDP-supported. It focuses on rare and endangered plants species in the same area.

“The new project is aimed at ensuring sustainable use, conservation and restoration of the Dukuduku forest and also improving the socio-economic status of the community through income generation by selling non-timber wood products,” said GEF small grant national co-ordinator, Khathutshelo Neluheni.

The project is one of the Inkanyamba Development Trust, formed by environment activists.

The Dukuduku project is one of five throughout the country earmarked for support bt GEF and the UNDP, with a view to starting their green effort in December: These include  fruit-tree planting, bamboo planting, contour planting, of trees, grass and shrubs and even conservation of goats in locations such as the Northern Cape, Gauteng and Western Cape.

When final approval is granted, the Dukuduku project will potentially be given 35 percent of its funding next month, GEF safeguards the investment by commissioning regular financial statement, which guides decision on issuring subsequent patments.

Neluheni said the project let wood carvers be within a single co-operative, “so they can be more organised, and to make it easier to get them thinking similarly about conservation and sustainable forest management.

The chairman of the trust, Ernest Mlambo, spoke of how, in the 1990s, when forced removals of  the illegal inhabitants of the forest were taking place, it made him ask some hard questions of himself and his community. “I thought: is it because these people are hated by the system, or is it really about conservation? Attitudes then changed.” Mlambo has been at the forefront of conservation efforts even since. He is also the founder and one of thr directors of the nursery which seeks,amount other things, to safeguard biodiversity in the area. According to Mlambo, 40 percent of the community now grow their own trees, and 180 permaculture food gardens are  being cultivated in the region-including at schools.

Species such as the mamba shilling, red heart and marula are endanged, and during the tour Bhekinkosi Phungula, also a founding member of the nursery, explained that was often because the trees wer uprooted for cultural and medicinal purposes. “With the marula, a womam who is breastfeeding and sad takes the bark and chews it, then digs a hole and sits out the bark and everything that worries her into it. It’s like a cleansing.”

He said red heart branches were traditionally used as fighting sticks, but the wood was now also popular for the fashioning of carving to be sold sold along the road.

But for Prince Tshaka, as important as sustaining rare indigenous plants is the protection of butterfly’s species. “We need butterflies as much as we need plants….. These insects are the pollinators, but need to conserve these butterflies so the next generation will be able to witness them.”

The butterfly house within the nursery raises 15 of the 110 species indigenous to the area.


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