Our research programs are aligned with and characterised by the high degradation status. One of the driving factors for minimum grass-cover in many grazing areas is the fact that most grazing lands are continuously grazed and not rested, uncontrolled annual fires and historical land use options. A re-alignment of rangeland management in these communal areas is there fore necessary.
Sigwela and Associates conducts land cover assessment to identify areas that are suitable for rehabilitation. The land management activities will need are
discussed with the communities. This includes management of livestock grazing. The re-introduction of rotational grazing is key to livestock management. These research projects are long-term and may not be implemented in the short time-frame.
- Forest Rehabilitation
This program targets the restoration of the degraded and cleared forests of the Wild Coast, in the former Transkei. The degradation and disappearance of these forested areas are the result of historically poverty-induced activities. Invasion by alien plants such as bugweed is current a major problem. Identifying the most suitable tree species to be used for restoring degraded areas and determination of the potential enhancement of natural plant succession in areas invaded by alien plant species are the focus of this program.
The Natural Resources Management Programmes of the Department of Environmental Affairs recognized that forest restoration has the potential for turning this situation around by creating jobs and pr
oviding opportunities for skills development, initially at least through the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). However, the prospect of earning carbon credits on the global carbon market is extremely promising which would mean the generation of earnings to pay for ongoing rehabilitation. Previously forested areas are then rehabilitated by planting indigenous seeds and seedlings which are propagated in nurseries. The Walter Sisulu University is a strategic partner in this program. As a result two BSc Honours students will get qualification from this research. Currently the project is assessing the effectiveness of the forest restoration project and determining the potential of enhancement of natural plant succession in areas invaded by alien plant species.
- Restoration of Watershed Services
The Maluti-Drakensberg mountain catchments provide a strategic water supply in the Eastern Cape. However, the majority of downstream rivers are characterised by high turbidity and increasing siltation, resulting in poor water quality for rural communities and limiting the efficiency of dams providing for downstream consumption. High sediment loads are due to widespread erosion in the river catchments resulting from a combination of high rainfall intensities, steep slopes, erodible soils and land use practices such as continuous overgrazing over decades. The severity of the situation is exemplified by the Mt Fletcher dam, which has silted up to 70% of its capacity within 4 years of its construction. Water in this dam is from the Tina River, one of the major tributaries of the Mzimvubu River in the Mzimvubu Catchment. This project is intended at producing science-based information for the improvement/reversal of degradation status of Mzimvubu catchment. This project will quantify soil erosion in the catchment, and determine how much soil resources are lost or retained subsequent to land restoration activities. Areas that have been rested from grazing are analysed in relation to those areas that have been exposed to grazing. In so doing an analysis of landscape functioning done. Further, areas that have been rested from grazing will be analysed in terms of their soil resources and will be compared to that in areas that have not be rested. Aspects that will be evaluated are, soil carbon content and soil nutrients.
- Social Research in Ntywenka
The Department of Water and Sanitation is intending to develop dams in the Mzumvubu catchment, one in Ntabelanga and the other in Laleni Villages in the Mhlontlo District Municipality. Silt accumulation might potentially compromise the effectiveness of these dams in harvesting water. To minimise this silt transportation, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), intends to restore catchments of the Ntabelanga dam. DEA intends to inform various stakeholders about the proposed rehabilitation project and get feedback from them and thus affording transparency and accountability in the manner in which decisions are taken. Sigwela and Associates undertakes a community facilitation and social research in a defensible and structured manner. In these identified areas, soil conservation measures that will be socially acceptable and physically effective will be identified. In this project, consultation with the relevant authorities including traditional leaders and government departments and state entities is be undertaken.