The South African Government established the Working for Water programme to champion the fight against invading alien plants. This is a multi-departmental initiative, lead by the Departments of Water Affairs & Forestry, Environmental Affairs & Tourism, and Agriculture. Begun in 1995, it is now the biggest conservation programme in Africa, and the largest of its kind in the world.

Working for Water controls invading alien plants for a variety of reasons:

  • They are the most significant threat to our biological diversity.
  • They threaten the ecological integrity of our natural systems.
  • Certain species threaten our water security (estimated to be wasting 7% of our mean annual runoff).
  • They compromise the productive potential of land.
  • Certain species are responsible for massive erosion problems.
  • They have many other negative impacts (e.g. flooding, eutrophication, changes in water quality, etc.).

In doing its work, the Working for Water programme is creating training and work opportunities for over 20 000 people. It is greatly enhancing social development through its focus on the "poorest-of-the-poor" and those who are most marginalized. It empowers communities, and adds value to the efforts of other initiatives (e.g. Land Care. Moreover, it is aligned to the Global Invasive Species Programme.

Working for Water has been associated with 34 national and international awards. It has set its goal to bring invading alien plants under control within a twenty-year period. Left alone, invading alien plants will continue to invade. The costs are simply unaffordable for the country.