Morukuru De Hoop Alien Vegetation Clearing Project

Trevor van Laun our General Manager at Morukuru Ocean House and Morukuru Beach Lodge in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, reports back on the creation and success of the alien vegetation clearing project underway in the reserve. On 5th December 2021, Morukuru Family De Hoop, in conjunction with the Morukuru Goodwill Foundation (MGWF), launched an Alien Vegetation Clearing Project in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Previously Cape Nature employed woodcutters to come into the reserve and remove the alien vegetation. But due to the Covid pandemic and slashing of funds, this was stopped. After two years of no one controlling the species, it has started growing back rapidly. After taking a drive through the reserve, we noticed an opportunity to work alongside Cape Nature to control the park's alien vegetation. Our project aims to clear out the Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops), a highly invasive plant species. Used as a dune stabiliser in Australia, this tree was introduced to South Africa in the 1830s. By 1975 it occupied around 300,000 ha (740,000 acres) of coastal lowlands and sandy river valleys of inland areas forming dense thickets. It retards the fynbos from growing in that area. The De Hoop Nature Reserve is world-famous for its fynbos, and this unique plant kingdom must be conserved.

Even though Rooikrans is alien vegetation, it makes for excellent firewood, which will be used in our lodges for heating. Between Morukuru Ocean House and Morukuru Beach Lodge, we burn two thousand pieces of wood in fireplaces per week in the winter months. By harvesting the Rooikrans, we can make a positive dent in this species on the reserve. Our carbon footprint will be reduced as the wood used for fires will be from the reserve, and we are assisting with reducing the invasive species. This will help both Morukuru Ocean House and Morukuru Beach Lodge be even more sustainable in the future. It also reduces the risk of bringing in other invasive and destructive pest species such as the Bora Beetle. We will mulch the twigs that cannot be used for firewood and spread these back onto the reserve as fertiliser, and cover the ground to ensure minimal water evaporation. By mulching the leftover twigs, we will also enable the fynbos to regenerate quicker. We are restoring the reserve to its former glory.

The Morukuru Goodwill Foundation supports this project by supplying the necessary equipment such as chainsaws, safety gear and specialised training. The training was a two-day course offered through a local company. Morukuru Family Madikwe generously gave us their Kubota vehicle (affectionally renamed: "Linkuni", which is the Xhosa word for "wood" by our staff) to get into those unique spots on the reserve to clear out the Rooikrans. Morukuru Family De Hoop has also invested in two additional staff members who will work full-time for this project. Danny Manala and Amos Mgqomo were successful candidates. Danny was retrenched back at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, and this project has allowed us to create a position to reemploy him and upskill him. He is excited to be back with the company and be part of a project that helps the environment. He comes from a lumberjack background and is thrilled to share his bush knowledge with us. Amos worked as a forklift driver and CAT operator for 11 years before joining us. He is happy to be able to help the environment where he can. Both Danny and Amos have embraced the goal of eventually selling harvested wood to locals in the area. We are proud to say that we managed to cut 3500 pieces of wood from the Rooikrans that were cleared within the first week of having the project operational.