New citrus farm on Kruger border – have your say

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Lisbeth
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New citrus farm on Kruger border – have your say

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:05 am

Posted on 3 December 2018 by Africa Geographic Editorial in Destinations, Kruger, News, South Africa, Wildlife

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A citrus farming enterprise has purchased a small but ecologically pivotal farm on the border of the Klaserie and Timbavati private nature reserves (Greater Kruger) near the town of Hoedspruit and plans to develop a citrus orchard in this vital game reserve area. Private reserves in the area have submitted their opposition to the development via formal channels, and they would appreciate your help to prevent an ecological disaster on the Kruger border.

After reading the information below, please register your feedback with the Limpopo Department of Economic Development and Tourism (LEDET), by way of email Comms@ledet.gov.za or on Twitter. LEDET is responsible for assessing the application and is currently busy with that process. Note that LEDET is not an adversary in this process, they are the governing authority that has to make difficult decisions such as this, balancing the needs and rights of various stakeholders.

The farmer

The applicant, Soleil Mashishimale (Pty) Ltd, is an affiliate of Soleil Sitrus (Pty) Ltd, a company specialising in the production, packing and exporting of citrus, currently exporting approximately one million cartons of citrus per annum. The farm in question was recently purchased specifically by Soleil for the purpose of developing a citrus orchard.

The farm

The farm borders the Klaserie River and shares its northern border with Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. The farm will also border the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve on Timbavati’s western border if and when an application by a private reserve for inclusion into Timbavati is accepted. Both Klaserie and Timbavati are included in the Greater Kruger ecosystem, with animals free-roaming between them and the Kruger National Park. The farm includes previously-cultivated land, and the proposed plan is to develop 120ha as a citrus orchard.

The area

This area is typically devoted to game reserves, as it is categorised as a Critical Biodiversity Area 2 (CBA 2), where developments need to be environmentally sensitive, should blend in with the environmental characteristics and processes of the area with little to no compromise to the ecological integrity and to threatened species.

The property is important in terms of corridors and connectivity, falls within the buffer zone of the important Klaserie River and within the natural distribution range of the Cape, hooded, white-backed and white-headed vultures and bataleur, martial and tawny eagles – all threatened species.

The property is within the SANParks Kruger National Park buffer zone, and therefore important for the long-term plan to safeguard as much land surrounding Kruger as possible.

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Map showing the location of the planned citrus farm on the Greater Kruger boundary, with proposed cultivation area in green.

Major concerns

Major concerns already submitted to LEDET by neighbouring reserves and landowners include the following:

1. Elephants are known to relish citrus fruit, particularly during the dry season when natural food sources are limited. The likely scenario is that Kruger elephants will frequently break through the fences separating the Greater Kruger from the farm, to get to the fruit. This will lead to human-wildlife conflict, and life-threatening encounters for both humans and elephants, and the destruction of property. Employees from the neighbouring reserves will be hard-pressed to react timeously to these break-outs, and the likely result will be that the farmer will most likely apply for permits to have the elephants declared ‘problem-causing animals’ and killed;

2. Other animals likely to be attracted to the fruit include baboons, monkeys and birds, and many will in all likelihood be killed – again as ‘problem-causing animals’;

3. Neighbouring reserves will incur significant additional costs as a result of having to deploy teams every time an elephant goes through a fence, reducing the available financial resources to combat poaching;

4. The farm has water rights for 120ha, equating to an estimated 1.2 billion litres per annum of water to be extracted from the Klaserie River (10 million litres per hectare per annum). The Klaserie River is a key tributary of the Olifants River, so this water extraction will impact significantly on Kruger. This area is in the grips of an extended and serious drought, with areas of the Greater Kruger and the Kruger National Park denuded of edible vegetation, and the animals battling to survive. At the best of times this area enjoys unreliable rainfall of 300-700mm per annum, with about 65 rain days per year – mainly via thunder showers.

5. There will be significant chemical pollution due to the citrus farming operations, including the use of poisons, herbicides and fertilisers;

6. The noise pollution of farm machinery and the visual pollution of a monoculture crop in an otherwise peaceful and biodiverse bushveld setting will be significant;

7. The insertion of a citrus farming operation into a bushveld game reserve environment is not compatible with existing land-use, and will compromise the further expansion of the Greater Kruger and SANParks plans for a core buffer zone around the Kruger;

Parting thought

Because of its location, this planned citrus farm is likely to have an enormous environmental footprint, far out of proportion to any benefits the farmer will claim (of generating jobs and tax revenue). Surely the best location for this farmer’s expansion objectives is on the western side of Hoedspruit, where extensive citrus farms are already located?

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Lisbeth
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Re: New citrus farm on Kruger border

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:00 am

Elephant experts respond regarding proposed citrus farm on Kruger border

Posted on 12 December, 2018 by Africa Geographic Editorial in Conservation, News, People, Research, Wildlife and the News Desk post series.

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Elephants Alive has released a comprehensive report regarding the proposed 120ha citrus farm development on the border of the Greater Kruger National Park. This small but ecologically pivotal farm was purchased by a citrus farming enterprise, Soleil Mashishimale (Pty) Ltd., an affiliate of Soleil Sitrus (Pty) Ltd. who specialise in the production, packing and exporting of citrus. The farm is located on the border of the Klaserie and Timbavati Private Nature Reserves (Greater Kruger) near the town of Hoedspruit.

The company plans to develop a citrus orchard in this vital area, which is typically devoted to game reserves and is categorised as a Critical Biodiversity Area 2 (CBA 2). This means that developments need to be environmentally sensitive, should blend in with the environmental characteristics and processes of the area with little to no compromise to the ecological integrity and to threatened species.

The Elephants Alive report expresses concern about this proposed development and highlights the devastating effects a citrus farm will have on the biodiversity of the area and its surroundings. The report covers specific concerns associated with the farm, namely loss of protected area expansion opportunities; pesticide application; water pollution; water supply; soil degradation; climate change implications; and the potential impact on human-wildlife conflict.

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Figure 1: Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBA) within the Mopani district of Limpopo with an inlay showing the CBAs within the proposed citrus farm development (QGIS, 2019)

To briefly summarise each concern

Loss of protected area expansion opportunities:

Currently 11% of Limpopo is formally protected, with the Kruger National Park contributing 72% to the provincial protected area network (PAN). The Limpopo Conservation Plan has identified 40% of the province as Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBA) and 22% as Ecological Support Areas (ESA).

The property contains 120ha of CBA 2, and also contains 7ha of CBA 1 which is outside of the proposed citrus orchard development, but still within the farm’s boundaries. This area is regarded as irreplaceable and vital for maintaining ecological process targets, and will become degraded if the property were to be developed. Developing the property into a citrus farm would undermine conservation efforts and there would be a consequential loss of biodiversity.

• Pesticide application:

The location of the proposed citrus farm is cause for great concern on both the impact that pesticides and water extraction may have on the surrounding environment. This concern is elevated due to the close proximity of the farm to the Greater Kruger National Park.

• Water pollution:

The proposed development poses a high risk of decreasing the quality of the only natural surface water source in the area. This will have a detrimental effect downstream, specifically within the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).

• Water supply:

The Klaserie River drains approximately half the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and flows to the north-east into the Olifants River together with other seasonal drainage lines. The proposed development would make use of the Klaserie River for irrigation.

As citrus farming requires a substantial amount of water this will increase the pressure on an already water-stressed ecosystem as Limpopo is a water-scarce province due to its geologically-limiting groundwater aquifers. The reduced water supply will ultimately have a negative impact on the ecosystem and affect the fauna and flora during the dry seasons and future droughts.

Soil degradation:

The proposed development will have detrimental long-term effects on soil structure and chemistry, potentially preventing future habitat rehabilitation efforts. Extensive use of chemicals and fertilisers will completely change the soil biota, reducing soil biodiversity and health.

Climate change:

Climate change is inevitable and thus the importance of recognising strategies to allow ecosystem resilience for the continued provisions of ecosystem goods and services. Protecting important areas to allow for a larger connected habitat is one of those strategies. The proposed developed impedes this and will instead lead to land degradation and habitat fragmentation.

Damage-causing animals (DCAs) the potential for human-wildlife conflict:

Elephants have been found to travel up to 5 km to reach cultivated areas. Back in 2017, three elephants travelled 40 km from within the APNR to reach mango orchards. As the proposed citrus farm is within 1 km of the boundaries of the APNR, crop raiding by elephants is inevitable. This would not only increase human-wildlife conflict already occurring throughout Limpopo but undermine the purpose of the nature reserve.

From an environmental, economic and ethical stand-point it is not feasible to cultivate an attractive crop such as oranges next to a reserve which protects a large population of elephants. Although there are mitigation methods to prevent intense fence breaks, these methods are time-consuming and potentially costly.

In the report the team does propose mitigation strategies based on the above concerns, such as planting crops that are compatible with organic farming methods; using water purification methods for wastewater; planting alternative crops (such as lemon grass, chili and garlic) that are known not to be attractive to wildlife; and so on. In addition to the above mentioned threats to biodiversity, the proposed development would also incur significant noise and traffic pollution during both the construction and operational phase. However, neither of these threats are easily mitigated and should be acknowledged.

In conclusion, the team is strongly opposed to the proposed citrus development and believes viable alternatives are available that would not come at the expense of the region’s ecological integrity. They go on to say that “there are certain limited resources and existing ecosystem services that can and should not be sacrificed in the name of ‘development’.”
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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