Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is an iconic plant of Subtropical Thicket and of the Klein Karoo. Subtropical Thicket (or spekboomveld) is a global biodiversity hotspot comprising more than 8 000 species, of which at least 23% are endemic.
Unfortunately, 80% of spekboomveld is moderately to severely degraded, with resultant soil erosion, reduced veld productivity, increased run off and water loss. These factors undermine ecosystem services such as erosion and flood control, water infiltration, biodiversity, nature-based tourism, carbon capture and storage. These in turn cause rising costs, lower farming returns, chronic unemployment, and a depressed rural economy.
Cognisant of the above, the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve partnership developed a project called ‘Jobs for Carbon’ which is being implemented in the Vanwyksdorp area of the Kannaland municipality (south-west of Oudtshoorn) through collaboration between WESSA, the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) and the Rhodes Research Restoration Group (RRRG), and in association with Assegaay Bosch Ranch.
The overall goal of the project is to improve the rural economy and ecosystem health and resilience of the Klein Karoo by exploring carbon farming as a sustainable use of spekboomveld. Spekboomveld does not recover naturally, but can be very effectively restored by dry-planting of cuttings. This triggers the return of other indigenous plants and animals and the thicket slowly recovers. As veld recovers, Spekboom shrubs accumulate significant stores of carbon dioixide in underlying litter and soil, and in above-ground biomass. The benefits of restoration work include restored natural capital, improved ecosystem services, job creation, and potential new income streams.
The project aims to:
- Restore 300 hectares of degraded Subtropical Thicket in the Klein Karoo
- Create employment for more than 60 people in the local communities
- Build entrepreneurial capacity to run restoration teams
- Provide valuable scientific work needed to test and develop the business case for carbon credits to be sold on the carbon market
- Be a catalyst for the expansion of restoration work in the region
Work started on the project in January 2014 with spatial mapping of potential restoration areas, and a landowner outreach exercise is now in progress in order to secure the 300 hectares that will be planted. Broader communications and awareness raising are also being undertaken. Three veld restoration teams comprising 60 people from local communities have been trained for spekboom planting and harvesting.
The Jobs for Carbon Project is funded by the European Union.