World Wetlands Day

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Lockdown Latest: KZN reed harvesting has been cancelled for 2021

Crafters will not be able to stock up on valuable reeds to make their mats, baskets and other household items due to lockdown restrictions.

World Wetlands Day

Image via Adobe Stock

KwaZulu-Natal crafters are going to miss out on annual reed harvesting due to the nationwide lockdown restrictions Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife announced on Wednesday.

The  worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus had resulted in the cancellation of the 2021 iNcema and Reed Harvesting Programme at both the uMlalazi Nature Reserve and iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KZN, the wildlife authority said.

“The decision to cancel the harvest is based on the realisation that, the popularity of this harvesting programme would have made it difficult, for scores of mainly women who would have come to  adhere to the lockdown regulations like social distancing and applicable number limitations,” Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said in a statement released on Wednesday.

The annual harvesting of natural resources, particularly Sea Rush – Juncus kraussii – has taken place 25 times within Ezemvelo Reserves in the past 32 years from 1988-2019. Community members from across KwaZulu-Natal, including places like Ladysmith, Vryheid and Melmoth have benefited from the iNcema and Reed Harvesting Programme that is managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

“The sought-after Sea Rush, including species such as the Common Reed – Phragmites australis – and iKhwane -Cyperus latifolius – are often harvested over a controlled period in May . These natural resources are used to make different traditional handicraft products like baskets, sleeping mats, beer strainers,” he said.

Mntambo said the biennial natural resource harvesting programme, importantly facilitated wetland recovery in the region.  

“In recent years, the vegetation component within the wetland system has shifted, favoring species such as Common Reed that dominates in freshwater as opposed to higher saline water conditions. Monitoring the wetland system allows for management interventions to be applied when necessary,” he said.

Mntambo said Ezemvelo would continue to monitor these natural resources within the protected areas and re-evaluate stock availability in early 2022.