Lantana camara invades Vic Falls

“The plant has invaded the Victoria Falls. It is growing on the gorges and you can’t see the nice scenery of the gorges and is also affecting the water flow of the falls and even worse has extended to Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park,” explained Brian Nkandu, national coordinator for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Zambian government sponsored project ‘Removing barriers to invasive plant management in Africa’ currently being undertaken in four countries namely Zambia, Uganda, Ghana and Ethiopia.

Characterised as a shrub or scrambler more than five metres high, lantana camara is often used as a hedge plant because it forms impenetrable barriers. The thickets of the weed that disrupts access of livestock to grazing and water interfere with farming and forestry activities that make lantana camara dangerous.

It is listed among the many plants referred to as Invasive Alien Species

(IAS) species in Zambia that are currently negatively impacting on biodiversity, agriculture, human development, economics and human health. Nkandu said UNESCO, which declared the Victoria Falls a world heritage site, has expressed concern on the Zambian side. Zimbabwe is said to have cleared the plant on its side in the early 1970s. Although no statistics have been carried out yet to determine the economic impact of the Lantana Camara on tourism, if allowed to grow further, Zambia would lose much of the revenue collected from tourists visiting the

heritage site.

“The effects of letting this plant continue to grow are quiet severe; we will lose the Victoria Falls as a tourist site and the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park which is adjacent is already under threat, will also be affected. Right now, there are certain islands in the area that could have been used to build lodges but these have become thickets because nothing was done then and those areas have become useless.”

He said so far the project had employed 22 people to uproot the Lantana Camara at the Victoria Falls. And among other measures being undertaken include awareness and demonstration of how Lantana can be cleared using chemicals. “Because of the nature of the area, uprooting the Lantana would cause soil erosion, so the alternative is to cut the lantana about 30 centimetres, then apply chemicals to kill the plant over time and allow other plants to geminate. We are also in the process of introducing some small flies to control the plant biologically. The flies will nip up on the leaves which will disturb the tissues until the plant dies off.” The project is being co-financed by UNEF/GEF (Global Environment Facility) and the government of Zambia on a 50-50 basis.

Nkandu said the IAS project launched in 2005 and expected to run until December 2009 is estimated to cost U$2 million to complete with an additional US$555,000 that has been released by government.

Among other IAS that Zambia is also looking to manage, include the Mimosa Pigra which currently occupies 3,000 hectares of the Lochinivar National Park and the Kafue Flats Game Management Area.

August 2008
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