An unusual day in the life of a Field Monitor

Flower Valley’s field monitors

Climbing a fynbos mountain daily, seeing wildlife up close and personal? That’s exactly what fynbos harvesting teams do every day while picking stems for the market. And Flower Valley’s field monitors got to experience just what that entails for a number of months.

The Sustainable Harvesting Programme team has undertaken intensive field monitoring across the Agulhas Plain, looking at the impacts of fynbos harvesting and establishing practical methods to measure this impact over time.

So Flower Valley’s two monitors, Daylene van Riet and Berna Jacobs, followed harvesting teams and climbed mountains to evaluate the impact of fynbos harvesting.

Just like harvesting itself, being a Fynbos Field Monitor is an unusual job that usually includes a truly South African adventure while still getting the job done. And it’s not for the faint-hearted.  

For example, the monitors had many encounters with wildlife while moving through the fynbos, including snakes that only give you a moment’s notice of their presence. Daylene nearly stepped on a Puff Adder (the Puff Adder is one of the deadliest snakes in Africa) – but luckily the snake slithered away quickly to protect itself. And Berna had a close encounter with a Rinkhals Cobra (a Spitting Cobra), which also fortunately slithered away into a bush with no harm done.

Daylene and Berna also had an encounter with a massive male baboon. The baboon’s warning call from less than one 1 meter away in a Protea bush sent all three, including the big baboon, running into different directions.

The presence of baboons also played out in other forms. After surveying a property, the team noticed that fynbos stems – particularly Protea repens – were being broken off. This was certainly not being done as per the Sustainable Harvesting Code of Best Practice. Only after an investigation did they discover that this was not the work of a harvesting team – but rather baboons breaking the Protea flower heads to drink the nectar.

Here’s the lesson we learned: One may not realise the dangers and risky adventures that harvesters experience daily while collecting beautiful flowers for bouquets.

Thanks to our fierce Field Monitors, Berna and Daylene, for the vital information they collected, and for reminding us of the extraordinary job that fynbos harvesters do.