By Johanes Belle (Prof from UFS Bloemfontein)
“We need to get the valley back to its ultimate glory in order to give back to our children the wonder of perfect nature that was experienced by our forefathers. This is a magnificent story yet to be told”, (Mr. Willie Nel of Moolmanshoek Farm interviewed on 07 August 2015) Mr Willie Nel of the Moolmanshoek Farm/wetland (also a natural heritage site), combines natural, social and biblical science to rehabilitate and manage a well maintained and an ecologically intact valley bottom wetland which lies about 39 km from Ficksburg and about 10km from Rosendal in the eastern Free State. He is inspired by the book of Genesis in the bible to emulate the beauty with which God created the world. “And God saw everything that
He has made, and, behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). From a natural science perspective, Mr. Nel explained that those living at the foothill export top soil down-stream through irrational cultivation of slopes, deforestation and improper burning that generates a lot of soil erosion. On the contrary “Instead of exporting the top soil, I export clean water to down steam users” declared Mr. Nel. In facts pictures can paint a thousand words so the three set of photos below tell the whole story. The concept of payment for ecosystem services (PES)can easily be applied here where downstream users could compensate for the purification role played by this well maintained wetland. This private commercial farmer also realized that natural science alone is not enough for wetlands rehabilitation, conservation and wise-use but there is need to add social sciences into the equation in the form of “rehabilitating peoples’ minds and thinking”.
He achieved this by providing education and workshops to other farmers not only on wise and sustainable wetland management but also on organic and climate-smart farm management. The Moolmanshoek wetland is in a very good ecological health, wet with green vegetation even during the heart severe drought like the one experienced in 2015 in the FS. Activities within the wetland include cattle rearing, game, pisciculture, site seeing, horse racing etc. Due to the good ecological status of this wetland, the average cost of business in the wetland is also low. For example the cost per littre of milk was estimated at less than a cent as the cattle graze freely in a well maintained natural pasture and remain healthy year round. Other spinoffs include the use of the wetland for recreation such as natural swimming pools, medicinal plants and rich biodiversity wherein some very rare and endangered plant species are found, hence a national heritage site.
The main problem however in this wetland relate to the fight against alien/invasive plants which Working for Water could assist in clearing
Poor land use leads to exportation of top soil through erosion.
Wetland rehabilitation work in progress
The rehabilitated wetland in good ecological state and exporting clean water to downstream users.