By Veronica Chapman
Tourism stakeholders in Victoria Falls recently joined hands with Zimbabwe National Parks and Greenline Africa to remove invasive Lantana Camara in the Victoria Falls Rainforest, which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Victoria Falls community always rise to a call to action, 160 people both corporates and individuals volunteered their time to remove the Lantana Camara using the cut rootstock method. This is done by cutting the main rootstock of the lantana 3cm below the soil surface and turning the bush upside down. These are left to dry for three months and the dried bushes are pulled together in an open area and burnt to avoid spreading of the seed and roots. This mechanical method is labor-intensive but effective and is the method currently being advocated in Zimbabwe. On the first clear-up day nearly 60% of the Lantana Camara was removed and on the second day another 30% leaving an approximate 10% still to be removed. This will be carried out in the next two weeks. Lantana Camara is a species of flowering plant within the Verbena family and was first discovered in South America and is grown primarily as an ornamental plant. This alien plant has invaded many native species in countries around the world including Zimbabwe, forming highly extensive, dense and impenetrable thickets in forests plantations, orchards, farm land, wasteland and natural areas such as the Victoria Falls Rainforest.
It essentially suffocates and if not controlled and eradicated, displacing naturally occurring species, thus causing major imbalances in the ecosystem and a reduction in biodiversity. Lantana Camara also contributes significantly to the reduction in the potential agricultural output in Africa, causing a loss in millions of dollars. A general clean-up of the Rainforest area was also undertaken and the hard work put in by all was rewarded with the opportunity to view the magnificent Victoria Falls thundering over the Gorges. For some of the local resident volunteers, this was the first time they had the opportunity to see the Victoria Falls. Greenline Africa has mapped areas within Victoria Falls where this invasive species is still present and has coordinated an annual community volunteer Lantana Camara eradication programme for the last couple of years.