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Africa|Environment|Health|Resources|Sustainable|Systems|Tourism|Products|Environmental
Africa|Environment|Health|Resources|Sustainable|Systems|Tourism|Products|Environmental
africa|environment|health|resources|sustainable|systems|tourism|products|environmental

Aloe ferox, Honeybush biodiversity management temporarily handed to Eastern, Western Cape depts

22nd July 2022

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has published biodiversity management plans (BMP) for Aloe ferox and the Honeybush plant species for implementation.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has assigned responsibility for implementation of the BMP for Aloe ferox to the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (EC-DEDEAT).

Temporary responsibility for the implementation of the BMP for the two Honeybush species, Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia, has been jointly assigned to the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and the EC-DEDEAT.

"The provinces will be supported by the Honeybush Community of Practice and the DFFE. This arrangement will end once the process to identify a suitable person, organisation or organ of State willing to take responsibility for the implementation of the species is identified," the DFFE said.

By implementing the Aloe ferox BMP, a major benefit, among others, will be to obtain the support of owners, managers and occupiers of land on which the plant occurs for the implementation of conservation actions. This should ensure the species does not go extinct and instead becomes better managed over time, maintaining the status of least concern, the department said.

Aloe ferox has a restricted distribution in South Africa extending from the Western Cape, intermittently throughout the Eastern Cape, and up into south-eastern Free State. The species also occurs in southern Lesotho.

"The rosettes of succulent leaves form the basis of a thriving Aloe ferox industry in South Africa, where leaf material from wild plants are collected to produce bitters and gels for commercial use in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

“The Aloe ferox industry provides significant socioeconomic benefits to many South Africans, from local communities who derive an income from harvesting of the plants, to small businesses who employ people to manufacture Aloe ferox products for both the local and international markets," Creecy highlighted.

Further, the species is included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to ensure that international trade in the plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.

The aim of the BMP is to ensure the long-term survival of Aloe ferox in its natural habitat, while ensuring that the livelihoods of stakeholders are respected, the DFFE said.

"To achieve this, the BMP aims to ensure that the wild harvesting of Aloe ferox is carried out in an adaptive, practical, participatory and transparent manner that maintains the long-term survival of the species in the wild.

“It also aims to ensure that the wild collection does not adversely affect the structure and functioning of the surrounding environment and ensures the establishment and implementation of monitoring systems that will provide the scientific evidence required to inform responsive management practices," the department said.

The Aloe ferox BMP also aims to ensure that collection and management activities are carried out under legitimate tenure arrangements and comply with relevant laws, regulations and agreements, as well as that the customary rights of local and indigenous communities to access their land - including indigenous/traditional knowledge associated with Aloe ferox and managing collection/harvesting areas - is recognised and respected and integrated into the permitting process/decision-making process.

The newly published plan also aims to ensure that, through fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the biotrade and bioprospecting of Aloe ferox, the conservation and sustainable use of the species is promoted, the livelihoods of communities are enhanced, and transnational management of Aloe ferox across its natural range in South Africa and Lesotho is promoted.

Meanwhile, although the two species of Honeybush are commonly used in the commercial tea industry, they are both classified as least concern in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List criteria.

However, a proper management plan and regulation is needed to ensure that sustainable harvesting and best practice takes place within this sector. The aim of this BMP is to ensure the long-term survival of Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia populations in the wild, while safeguarding and respecting the livelihoods of stakeholders, the department said.

Honeybush species are endemic to the Western and Eastern Cape provinces with the distribution extending from the Cedarberg north of Citrusdal, southwards to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to Port Elizabeth.

Cyclopia species have been used commercially since the nineteenth century for the production of honeybush tea, a caffeine-free beverage considered by many to provide a range of health benefits.

Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia are among the Honeybush species that are currently declining in the wild owing to a number of challenges, including the ongoing illegal harvesting within communal lands and nature reserves, as well as on private farms where land owners are absent.

The removal of excessively large quantities of plant material too frequently results in overharvested, unhealthy populations, an expansion of human settlement and agricultural lands into areas where the species occurs is contributing to the decline, and invasive alien encroachment by species such as black wattle and pine that shade out indigenous plants such as honeybush, the DFFE said.

"Specific activities need to be undertaken to enable the sustainable use of the species while ensuring that systems are in place to monitor ongoing impacts of commercial extraction. This includes ensuring that the wild collection of these plants is done in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner that maintains long-term survival of the species in the wild," Creecy emphasised.

The Honeybush BMP also aims to ensure that wild collection of Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia does not adversely affect the environment, including ecosystem function, and ensure that collection and management activities are carried out under legitimate tenure arrangements and comply with relevant laws, regulations and agreements.

The plan further aims to ensure that, through fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the biotrade and bioprospecting of Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia, the conservation and sustainable use of honeybush species is promoted.

The BMP also aims to ensure wild collection of Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia is based on adaptive, practical, participatory and transparent management practices, as well as informed by management practices that can rationally be applied to other commercial Cyclopia species, whether reseeders or resprouters, and to ensure the protection and management of genetic Cyclopia subtenata and Cyclopia intermedia resources, the DFFE said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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