Conservation Ecology students from Stellenbosch University
Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting team hosted the Conservation Ecology students from Stellenbosch University last week, testing the field assessment set out by the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. This visit formed part of a practical component for the Sustainability Course run by one of Flower Valley’s Trustees, Rhoda Malgas.
The class assisted the programme to test the field assessment used to determine how well harvesters comply with the Code of Practice for sustainable harvesting. They were enthusiastic to test the method despite the difficult field conditions which harvesters have to deal with every day for their living. The students also found the pocket field guides very useful and photos were taken to assist with future demonstrations for training with the SHP members.
The class will also be reviewing current literature relating to the Code of Practice to ensure that the Sustainable Harvesting Programme stays current with newly published research. The Sustainable Harvesting team had such a wonderful time with Rhoda and her class, especially for contributing to the programme with their ideas and insights.
We have a house full of happy faces – as our Early Learning Centre opens its doors for 2017. It’s the first day of school, and this year we have 28 children joining us to learn more about themselves and about nature.
The Flower Valley Early Learning Centre offers children from the surrounding rural areas, as well as children from the towns of Gansbaai and Masakhane an opportunity to learn more about the environment. The centre is a member of the Eco-Schools Programme, thereby incorporating environmental education into the curriculum.
The centre also has a vegetable, herb and scent garden – where the children plant seeds and pick their veggies from. The centre recently completed a road safety track in the garden, teaching children how to be safe when walking beside public roads.
The practitioners, guided by principal Jimmona Schuurman, encourage recycling and up cycling at the facility, teaching practices that children can then take to their own homes.
During the first term, the centre will focus on environmental orientation, and encouraging children to know themselves and to explore different emotions. A number of outings have also been planned, including regular walks on Flower Valley Farm.
Our former Harvesting Manager, Oom Alfred Swarts has died aged 62. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and died at his home in Stanford on Saturday 17 December.
Oom Alfred had worked for Flower Valley Conservation Trust since 2005. He joined as the team leader overseeing the harvesting team that at the time picked fynbos on Flower Valley Farm.
In 2015, the harvesting team became an independent contracting team, operating as a small business and picking fynbos as per the principles of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme for local pack sheds. Oom Alfred retired from the business at the end of last year due to illness.
Oom Alfred had been a Walker Bay region resident for many years, working at Flower Valley’s neighbouring farm, Fynbos Retreat, since the 1980s.
Oom Alfred will be remembered for his incredibly kind nature, his love and knowledge of fynbos, and his leadership.
He is survived by his wife, Jolene, his three children and three grandchildren.
There’s a lot of resolve needed to meet the challenges faced by non-profit organisations. For us, it’s so gratifying when our work results in positive change.
Like seeing fynbos landscapes cared for by wonderful partners, or seeing young children connecting in new ways with nature.
So a very special thank you to all our donors, friends and supporters for all that you have done for us this year. We can’t take on this crucial work without your help.
A gift that truly gives
There are loads of ways for you to get involved in fynbos conservation. Like giving a gift to a friend or to family that will protect fynbos for a year. We’ve made it possible for you to Adopt a Hectare for someone else this Christmas – a gift that truly gives. Please check here for more.
We hope you have a beautiful festive season with family and friends. We’re looking forward to connecting with you in 2017.
The Flower Valley team travelled to a chilly London in December – to bring partners in ethical trade and sustainable production together.
The workshop, held on 1 December at the Royal Geographical Society, was co-hosted with the Universities of Newcastle and Durham. The aim was to share best practice in sustainable production, looking at the supply chains that provide products to retailers.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust represented those suppliers and packsheds who are picking fynbos as members of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. Other industries represented included the cocoa industry and the garment sector.
More than compliance
According to speakers at the event, it’s vital to look beyond compliance, but to rather understand how acting ethically is benefiting workers and the environment. Dionne Harrison of Impactt Ltd said, “Compliance is important, but more important is the impact. Has it made a difference to anybody?” It’s therefore important to measure the impact on the ground.
Professor Stephanie Barrientos of the University of Manchester said that acting ethically is more than ticking off a checklist. “It’s not just about compliance and better conditions, but also about smallholders and people making a decent living out of what they do.”
She said workers and suppliers earning a decent living will be encouraged to remain in a sector, and not leave for better opportunities. This in turn will ensure key skills are not lost.
Business depends on biodiversity
The keynote address was delivered by the CEO of Fauna & Flora International (Flower Valley’s founding partner), Mark Rose, who said business is underpinned by biodiversity.
“All business depends in some way on ecosystem services, such as clean air and water and healthy soils. As biodiversity declines, so does the health of an ecosystem and its ability to provide businesses with the goods and services they depend on.”
Lesley Richardson and Kathy O’Grady of Flower Valley spoke of the successes and challenges in the fynbos industry. Fynbos landscapes are threatened in some cases by poor land management, including invasive vegetation. Through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, Flower Valley works with partners across the fynbos supply chain, to encourage ethical actions. The Programme is supported by the European Union and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.
The theme for the evening concert was: ‘Environmental education is the key to a better world’. This theme shone through the activities and songs that the 27 children acted out on stage.
Parents, guardians, teachers and friends of the Early Learning Centre joined the children in celebrating the start of the festive season, and the conclusion of a busy school year at our centre. The children sang songs such as ‘Heal the world’ and ‘All the beautiful creatures’ (from the movie, Rio), and performed a gumboot dance and a boys’ freestyle dance.
The young ones loved the experience of being on stage – dancing, clapping and singing under the bright lights. They also entertained the crowds with Christmas carols, joined by the parents and teachers.
At the end of the evening, Eyam May, Imivuyo Gugula and Verushka Vermeulen received their Grade R Diplomas. They’re all heading off to ‘big school’ from 2017.
Our Early Learning Centre on Flower Valley Farm provides an environmental education to children from the surrounding rural and peri-urban areas. The farm setting allows children to connect with nature – including the wonderful fynbos landscapes.
The Flower Valley Conservation Trust’s annual report for 2015 – 2016 financial year has been completed and is now available. It’s been a year where fynbos conservation has been prioritised from the bottom up: from our work in sustainable harvesting of fynbos, to the work in supporting invasive vegetation management. A special thank you to donors, partners and Flower Valley friends for supporting fynbos conservation and sustainable livelihoods during the year.
What a great time of the year to be on Flower Valley Farm. We’ve just traversed the farm to give feedback to those who have adopted hectares.
Besides the lovely spring fynbos flowers (especially the pincushions), we really got to see the rich animal life that lives happily in the fynbos that flourishes here and that is protected – thanks to the support from our many Flower Valley friends who have adopted hectares (details below). Thank you!
We even had some of our adopters join us at the recent Funky Fynbos Festival, when Flower Valley Farm played host to hundreds of athletes (and their families) looking to conquer our region’s tough routes.
We received such great feedback from participants on the beauty of our area’s fynbos. So thanks to everyone who joined us.
The Sustainable Harvesting Programme has a new team member. Kirsten Retief joins the team as the Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator. She will meet with landowners and harvesters, providing support to meet environmental best practice principles in the fynbos sector.
Kirsten previously worked for the Endangered Wildlife Trust, working within the Wildlife and Energy Programme, based at Strandfontein on the West Coast. Her role here included monitoring the impacts of wind turbines on bird and bat populations.
Prior to this, she worked as a Research Assistant at the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). In collaboration with the University of Cape Town, Kirsten worked with Dr Adam West and Michele Pfab on forensic methods to curb cycad poaching. South Africa is well known for its cycad diversity. But cycad poaching from the wild is rife in the country.
She graduated in Zoology and Ecology from UCT, and then completed her Honours in Botany and her Masters in Conservation Biology. The Masters degree at UCT is a course for which only 14 students are selected globally.
Throughout her career, Kirsten has been inspired by fynbos heavyweights like Prof Timm Hoffman, Prof William Bond, Prof Jeremy Midgley, and more…
Kirsten says she is excited about joining the Flower Valley team, and is looking forward to the challenge. She will be based at the Bredasdorp office, although her role will ensure she covers much of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
The Funky Fynbos Festival was held on Flower Valley Farm in September – with more than 500 mountain bikers and trailrunners, and their families, getting to know the farm and enjoying the scenery.
This was the third Funky Fynbos Festival – and the first where Flower Valley Farm hosted the start and finish of the races. The festival aims to showcase the Gansbaai region as more than a marine destination, but also as a fynbos hub – with many fynbos species only found here, and nowhere else globally.
Sounds of the Gansbaai Academia’s Marimba Band created an unforgettable ambience, while the Shark Lady filled in the gaps with her DJ skills. Boerie rolls, beers and creative crafts were on sale, providing the crowds with sustenance and entertainment while waiting for their families to complete the races.
Race contestants commented on how tricky and challenging the trails were, although they agreed that the flourishing Walker Bay fynbos made the challenge worthwhile.
Karen Clement, the event coordinator of the Funky Fynbos Festival, thanked the sponsors and exhibitors. “The festival really captured the essence of the Gansbaai community and promoted our Gansbaai and greater Overstrand area.”
From Flower Valley Conservation Trust, our thanks to everyone who joined us on Flower Valley Farm. We look forward to next year and hosting you again.
Some quotes from Funky Fynbos Festival attendees:
“I’ve ridden some of the route and I don’t think there are many better races you can do. Lots of climbs and lots of fun descents and great views.”
“The fun race calendar is so packed with events it’s hard to compete, I guess. I would far rather do the FFF than any of the other crowded-out races on smooth boring trails. Please keep the event alive!”
“Thanks for hosting us and well done on an excellent event. The 45km (mountain bike) was damn hard, can’t imagine what the 64km must have been like.”
“We encountered a herd of “wild” horses galloping along the trail at one point which added a bit of spice to the ride. The organization was superb as were the trail markings. There was great beer on sale at the finish area and the cheapest boerie rolls I have seen for a while @ R15 a pop! The fynbos in the area is amazing and I had a good view of it as I pushed up some of the last hills.”
“Gansbaai trails are always fun. Spectacular scenery; photos don’t do it justice.”