Monday, November 05, 2007

Aliens under Siege - BIOKAVANGO Project

Workshop participants and stakeholders

A newly trained army in the fight against the Okavango Delta's alien invasive weeds graduated after a four day training workshop at Xakanaka, in the Moremi Game Reserve, on October 14th t0 19th, 2007. The workshop saw BIOKAVANGO Project, in collaboration with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) jointly educating tour operators and other stakeholders on the deadly effects of Salvinia molesta and how to use a biological method to control it. Participants walked out of the workshop with certificates that not only verified their newly acquired knowledge on Salvinia molesta, but also water quality monitoring skills. Welcoming guests during the official opening, Tawana Land Board Secretary, Mr Nixon Mogapi said that failure to safeguard the Okavango Delta may affect the livelihoods of local communities and the tourism sector. Mogapi said that protecting the delta from potential threats ensures that all stakeholders depending on its natural resources continue to benefit and sustain it through to future generations.
BIOKAVANGO Project Fisheries and Water Coordinator, Mrs Belda Mosepele emphasised that the workshop objective was to introduce the DWA/BIOKAVANGO Project/HOORC/Tour Operators' collaboration in the integrated control of the Salvinia molesta and water quality monitoring in the Okavango Delta, and to implement the same.
Giving an overview on the integrated control of aquatic weeds, DWA Senior Botanist, Dr Naidu Kurugundla, explained Salvinia molesta as a floating fern, whose native range is Southern America. "In Southern Africa it was first noted by botanists in 1948 at Kazungula Island, Eastern Caprivi. It floated into Botswana through the Kazungula River and spread - out to Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe river systems in the north-eastern parts of the country". Kurugundla went on to add that the Salvinia weed is also found in the Okavango Delta. The direct agents that contribute to its spread in a given area are wind, water currents and water temperatures. Wild animals such as hippos and elephants can be responsible for small and local range infestations but the prime culprits for longer distance transfers are people.
Kurugundla also said that Salvinia molesta is controlled by integrating physical and biological methods. He said that the host specific biological control for Salvinia is the weevil insect (Cyrtobagous salviniae).
In his speech the National Coordinator for BIOKAVANGO Project, Dr Moleele said that tour operators have been identified as important stakeholders in the intervention program because of their daily dependence on the Okavango Delta. He applauded DWA for tirelessly waging war against the spread of Salvinia molesta since the 1970s.
Five tour operator companies represented by Camp Moremi, Moremi Safaris, Splash Camp, Sandebi Camp and Khwai River Lodge are involved in implementing the interventions. Following the workshop, BIOKAVANGO Project and DWA will develop the infrastructure for breeding the weevils, install the portapools at each camp and train two guides per camp to control and monitor new salvinia infestations. They will also be expected to manage the breeding infrastructure for breeding weevils.
To wind up the workshop, Dr Masamba from HOORC engaged the participants in water quality monitoring practical exercises at the Xakanaka channel and the Paradise Pools.
The workshop was facilitated by the BIOKAVANGO Project Assistant Technical. Mr Geof Khwarae.

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