Kuzuko Game Reserve digs deep with reforestation project

Published in The Herald on 21 December 2022. Original article can be found here.

One of the largest reforestation projects in the world has got off, or rather into, the ground at the Kuzuko Private Game Reserve.

SPEKBOOM SUCCESS: The project, will see more than 25-million spekboom cuttings planted over the next 18 months
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

The project, will see more than 25-million spekboom cuttings planted over the next 18 months, and is part of an ongoing rewilding process which began 20 years ago.

It is aimed at boosting biodiversity and creating jobs in the region, while also tackling climate change by capturing about 1.5-million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the next three decades.

The project is a direct response to the call for action by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration for individuals and organisations to rapidly upscale the implementation of ecosystem restoration projects so that hundreds of millions of hectares of degraded land are restored by 2030.

Robert Hodson of Legacy Hotels & Resorts said the land at Kuzuko had been degraded by more than 150 years of unsustainable goat farming practices and had been purchased in 2002 as a rewilding project designed to create jobs in an area of 70% unemployment.

“We are very proud to be participants in this global movement triggered by the UN Decade and look forward to playing our part in restoring the Kuzuko land to its former glory,” Hodson said.

Since the early 2000s Kuzuko has operated as a “big five” private game reserve and five-star lodge managed by Legacy Hotels & Resorts, with eco-tourism continuing to fund Kuzuko’s conservation and social programmes.

One of the aspects that makes this project, taking place just 170km from Gqeberha, so special is the tree that’s being planted.

Spekboom is an indigenous succulent tree that once covered large parts of the Eastern Cape.

Over the last 30 years, researchers have found that replanting spekboom has an amazing effect on the landscape.

Some of the benefits include that fallen leaves decompose to form new topsoil, the canopy slows rainwater so reducing runoff and further topsoil loss, stems and root systems allow the ingress of water into the soil increasing moisture content and the shade from the canopy reduces the soil surface temperature and slows the rate of moisture loss — all of which allow other species to flourish.

As well as being an ecosystem engineer, spekboom is particularly good at capturing carbon from the atmosphere, with each hectare of replanted spekboom capturing up to 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide over a 30-year period.

Hodson said the Kuzuko project was a VERRA carbon standard verified project which sees carbon credits being issued for the carbon sequestered by the spekboom thicket which will be used to repay the initial investment, fund further restoration work and fund additional social initiatives.

The project will also create more than 200 jobs in the next 18 months training local workers with new skills and putting millions of rand into the local economy.

The reforestation project is a partnership between Inqo Investments and AfriCarbon through its subsidiary, Spekboom Trading and has been funded through a long-term agreement with Reforest’Action, a B Corp certified reforestation specialist based in Paris.

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