Co-facilitating invasive species control, water conservation and poverty relief: achievements and challenges in South Africa’s Working for Water programme
van Wilgen, B.W.
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The Working for Water programme simultaneously promotes conservation and poverty relief through alien plant control projects. We trace the programme’s history and review the factors that led to its success. These included a sound scientific grounding, a clear demonstration that the plants are a serious threat to vital and scarce water resources, and a unique opportunity presented by South Africa’s transition to democratic government. The programme built on historical precedents for control, and was able to capitalise on a core of dedicated managers that delivered a good-news story, leading to increased funding. The programme has facilitated advances in biological control, raised levels of awareness, enacted legislation, and promoted research. However, it has only treated a relatively small proportion of the estimated invaded area, and assessments of progress towards ecosystem-scale outcomes cannot be made as they are not monitored. The need to operate in a bureaucratic environment, an emphasis on jobcreation and relative neglect of environmental goals, and high levels of political interference are significant obstacles to progress.