“We are pleased to be supporting these two businesses as they comprise of previously unemployed community members, including both youth and women”
WHILE the widespread introduction of an alien plant, the Prosopis tree, has wreaked havoc on South Africa’s native plants and broader ecosystem, it has become a source of business for two Loeriesfontein families.
Prosopis is an agroforestry tree species that was introduced globally to over 100 countries, including South Africa. Prosopis went through mass-scale distribution and planting and this tree has since become the second most widespread invasive alien plant group in the country, having harmful effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services, local economies and human livelihoods.
However, it does provide benefits such as animal fodder, shade and is a source of business for two Loeriesfontein families who have set up small local enterprises that are able to provide local employment.
“Using this plant (for firewood) has opened up opportunities for enterprise development and local employment creation, while improving environmental management and sustainability, making it a perfect fit for our enterprise development programme,” Vanessa Fredericks, economic development manager for Khobab Wind Farm, explained.
Two dynamic community entrepreneurs, with their families, are behind the commercialisation of the firewood. Khobab Firewood focuses on the logging of the species from farms in the area and selling stockpiles of dried wood to Mr Phila’s Firewood for packaging and distribution to major markets.
These entrepreneurs, who provide work for eighteen local people, have been supported by Loeriesfontein Wind Farm and Khobab Wind Farm’s enterprise development implementing agent, Senze Consulting. Support extends beyond just providing working capital, it includes business planning, equipment and business support to access markets and distribution channels, human resources management, financial management, procurement and general business administration.
“We are pleased to be supporting these two businesses as they comprise of previously unemployed community members, including both youth and women,” added Fredericks.
Studies have found that invasions of Prosopis had a negative impact on native tree populations by reducing their growth rates and increasing their mortality. This infestation leads to the loss of water, loss of grazing potential, breakage of infrastructure and reduced economic returns for farmers through high costs of control and loss of ecosystem services.