Soil Erosion Control and Veld Rehabilitation


Ecological rehabilitation is a great deal more than a technical management challenge.  Working on rehabilitation projects is a way in which we can establish a balanced and  healthy ethical relationship with our natural environment. Working with our hands in the  soil literally brings us “back to earth”. If properly done, rehabilitation projects heal more  than the scars of man’s careless actions, it also inspires people to care more for their  natural environment. 

Rehabilitation works should not attempt to restore the ecosystem to some particular  condition; they should rather be aimed at “kick-starting” the process of natural succession  and healing. If this natural process can be restored, or even partially restored, nature will  continue the process and develop into whatever it is able to. In degraded areas, we  should thus aim to give nature a helping hand wherever we can, thereafter it will take over  and do the rest. 

Our rehabilitation efforts, whatever they may be, will rarely result in a completely finished  product or condition. They will result in a beginning, an early stage of a natural  succession. Our efforts will set a process in motion by creating the dynamics for natural  development in the long run. 

One must, however, think about the end result and what it may look like when the system  is beginning to function. You need to create a vision of what you would like to achieve.  Once this is done the planning of erosion control work can commence.

Because we care about nature and our natural habitats, we must make others aware that  their use of the land has environmental consequences. We need to give them incentives  to change their use of the land to be more environmentally appropriate and to use natural  resources more sustainably, for their own benefit. 

Redirecting long-standing and harmful land-use behaviour is much more difficult than  actually rehabilitating the wounds and scars that result from the ill-considered actions of  the uninformed. The rehabilitation practitioner must therefore also be something of a  teacher because after all, “prevention is always better than a cure”. 

Combatting soil erosion is based on a land ethic that drives the practitioner to repair what  has been damaged. It is something of an art and the truly committed person drives in  every peg, or places every stone, with the insight that is derived from experience and  some instruction. 

Successful soil erosion control can never be based only on the remuneration that is  involved in a rehabilitation contract; it must be based on something more human,  something from the heart, an ethical relationship with the land. 


In this booklet, the methods that can be used to rehabilitate the degraded parts of the  landscape in the GCBR are described in detail and some of the good results that can be  relatively easily (and fairly inexpensively) achieved are shown. 

The first step in the rehabilitation process is to eliminate the cause of habitat degradation.  If the cause is historical overgrazing, then all that is required is to exclude rehabilitation  sites from grazing until the protective vegetation cover is again well established and can  be safely utilized. This may require a number of growing seasons, a realistic period of no  less than two or three years with normal rainfall for the area is probably a practical  guideline but it very much depends on the particular site and how degraded it was to begin  with. 

The methods recommended are easy to implement using unskilled, but carefully  supervised workers. The cost of implementation is a major consideration and the methods  show the minimum of effort and costs required for the effective rehabilitation of degraded  habitat. It is an unfortunate fact that if rehabilitation is seen by landowners to be too costly,  it will simply not be done. 

It is important to appreciate that habitat rehabilitation often needs to be done in areas of  extreme climatic conditions, which makes successful rehabilitation difficult. The methods  shown here focus on the rehydration of the soil and the creation of a more favourable  micro-climate that will give germinating plants the best chance for survival on treated sites. 

An important aspect of rehabilitation work which is often completely neglected, is the much  needed follow-up maintenance of rehabilitation efforts. After installation, the erosion  control structures and treatments need constant attention (particularly after heavy rainfall)  to ensure that they remain effective and that they will continue to contribute to gradual but  significant habitat improvement.

This chapter will hopefully help the rehabilitation practitioner, or landowner, to identify the  degraded sites that need to be treated and to provide a guideline for practical and cost  effective methods that can be used to combat each type of soil erosion. 

Careful attention to detail is a prerequisite for the planning and implementation of soil  erosion control work irrespective of the habitat type, or environment, in which it is to be  done. 

As with all kinds of field practice, the methods described must be suitably modified in order  to accommodate any particular site or condition, but it is critical that the basic principles, as  described for each method, are used as a guide. There are many additional methods that  could also be used in the control of soil erosion, but the methods described have been  very well tested, and have proved to be practical in terms of cost, ease of implementation  and also suitable for most habitat conditions.