A waterweed mass-rearing facility was established in 2008 at Waainek in Grahamstown during the first phase of the Working for Water (WfW) funded aquatic weed research programme. Since then the mass-rearing programme has been upgraded and expanded. In 2009, the first three persons with disabilities (PWD) were employed, in collaboration with SAEON Elwandle Node, to assist with maintenance of the mass-rearing facility and collection of the insects. There are currently 6 PWD employed at the facility where they have received opportunities to gain skills through the courses that they have done. These courses include the Weeds Biological Control Short Course (which they all have to do), First Aid, Health and Safety and Financial Skills. In 2017 the employees chose to name the team or programme, Sisonke, the word 'Sisonke' is the isiXhosa word for 'all together'.

The facility is the leading mass-rearing unit in the country and is an example of how research and implementation are carried out together. It has resulted in socio-economic upliftment of the people that work there but also the release of over 1 million biological control agents for water weeds throughout the country.

Sisonke remains a highly successful and rewarding programme at the Centre for Biological Control and they have assisted the City of Cape Town’s Invasive Species Programme, under the Environmental Resource Management Department (ERMD) with the development of a similar programme. Members of our Sisonke team went to the Cape Town facility in 2014 to train members of their team, thereby transferring knowledge, skills and their own experience. Our group still has significant inputs into the Cape Town Programme.

Sisonke Team 2018 (Photo: Esther Mostert)

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Last Modified: Wed, 11 Nov 2020 13:13:35 SAST