Alien plant ‘aun­tie’ to the res­cue

Vuk'uzenzele - - Women's Month - Jauhara Khan

A LO­CAL WOMAN is pro­tect­ing the Cape Winelands ecosys­tem one alien plant at a time.

Linda Jansen is lead­ing ef­forts to rid the scenic Cape Winelands of in­va­sive alien plants.

Jansen, 50, is an alien plant clear­ing con­trac­tor from Tul­bagh in the Western Cape, who is chang­ing her com­mu­nity through her com­mit­ment to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Jansen joined Cape Na­ture, a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion re­spon­si­ble for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion in the Western Cape, as a gen­eral worker in 2002.

She was soon asked to join the Cape Na­ture of­fice as a wage clerk.

But the banks of the Breede River had seen a wide­spread in­fes­ta­tion of in­va­sive plant species over the years. If left to flour­ish, in­va­sive alien plants pose a threat to plant and an­i­mal bio­di­ver­sity, us­ing up vast amounts of wa­ter and com­pro­mis­ing soil qual­ity. The Western Cape De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s LandCare di­vi­sion turned to the com­mu­nity in search of so­lu­tions, and out of that search emerged Jansen, who was approached to reg­is­ter as an alien clear­ing con­trac­tor.

Jansen started her con­tract­ing busi­ness, Lyn’s Val­ley, which now over­sees three alien plant clear­ing teams and em­ploys 39 peo­ple. Her teams are cur­rently de­ployed in projects in Welling­ton and Worces­ter.

“When I started out I em­ployed 12 peo­ple, and I hired a bakkie and three chain­saws. I em­ployed peo­ple who had pre­vi­ously been in jail, housewives, youth… peo­ple who needed a job.” she said.

Jansen has an acute un­der­stand­ing of the ecol­ogy of the area, and ex­plained the im­pact in­va­sive plants had on re­sources needed by lo­cal veg­e­ta­tion.

“There are many kinds of alien plants grow­ing here. Eu­ca­lyp­tus, pine, and poplar trees are all alien plants. The blue gum tree is one of the big­ger trees that grows next to wa­ter. On a hot day, it can drink as much as 200 litres of wa­ter. The river turns into a stream; there is so lit­tle wa­ter left that you can’t even fill a bot­tle. When you cut the tree down, you can ac­tu­ally see wa­ter bub­bling out of it,” she said.

Jansen, who is fondly re­ferred to as “Aunty” and “Mother” by her em­ploy­ees and lo­cals, said that her teams worked closely with farm­ers in the area who un­der­stand the ben­e­fit of their pro­gramme.

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