The market for braai wood is growing, but the resource is becoming scarce

“The market for braai wood is growing, but the resource is difficult to access,” says Cobus Meiring of SCLI, an organisation focussing on the control and eradication of invasive alien plants.

“South Africans pride themselves for their seemingly insatiable need to braai, and in the process, they go through millions of pieces of firewood per annum. A vast proportion of wood used for the braai market is harvested from thickets of invasive alien plants such as wattle, blue gum and Rooikrans, with the rest harvested from indigenous but encroaching species such as sickle thorn and acacias.”

“But, says those selling braai wood on street corners, at fuel stations and chain stores, they are increasingly experiencing difficulty in locating enough wood of the right size and age locally.”

According to Meiring, distributors of braai wood in Cape Town, for instance, say that they now have to travel to Namibia to find suitable wood in substantial amounts, or to the Overberg where there is an abundance of Rooikrans, blue gum and wattle.

“Transportation of wood pieces is expensive, and so the price of a packet of braai wood is constantly escalating, and according to suppliers, the prices are cut-throat as it is, and Covid-19 and the national lockdown have had a marked effect on sales.”

“One of the challenges faced by teams harvesting invasive alien plants for braai wood is that although there is a lot of suitable trees near Cape Town and surrounds, private landowners refuse them entry for either security concerns, or because contractors often leave a mess behind after they had harvested the best trees, leaving the landowner to deal with the problem of regrowth and coppicing,” says Meiring.

SCLI, with the support from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), is now in the process to determine how big the economy dependent on invasive alien and encroaching trees and plants is in an attempt to align and assist the industry in its ongoing efforts to control and eradicate exotic and encroaching biomass on the South African landscape where they pose an enormous threat to water security. Invasive alien plants also significantly increase the risk of wildfires.

SCLI is inviting those individuals and entities making a living from invasive alien and encroaching biomass to participate in the development of a strategic framework for the biomass economy. Interested individuals, businesses or organisations can contact SCLI by sending an email: louisamare@gmail.com or WhatsApp message to 082 078 1629.

For more information follow the link to the SCLI website: www.scli.org.za or https://www.scli.org.za/announcement-and-invitation-to-participate/

Photo: Braai wood

A new initiative to develop a Strategic Framework for an Alien and Invasive Biomass Economy in South Africa will endeavour to identify and unlock the opportunities of an invasive and alien biomass economy in South Africa that targets problematic alien and invasive woody biomass through ecosystem rehabilitation. (Photo SCLI)

Written by Marti Kirstein