Flower Valley’s latest news

Latest news

I don’t think it has ever been clearer: if nature works, people benefit. And when we don’t care for our natural resources (like letting invasive species overrun water sources), there are consequences.

Our natural world has the amazing ability to regenerate. But right now, it needs our help.

That’s where Flower Valley comes in – and in 2017, we had wonderful successes, but also some challenges. A few of our highlights:

  • For 4 years, in an EU & WWF-Nedbank Green Trust funded project, we developed tools to support ethical fynbos harvesting, across 75,000 hectares of the Cape Floral Kingdom;
  • The clearing of invasive alien plants under our ABI Programme started up again on the Agulhas Plain;
  • Our Early Childhood Development Programme grew with new funders and three new staff members joining the team – to encourage environmental learning for young children;
  • And Flower Valley underwent a strategic review, which will play out over the coming years.

It’s been a challenging year for many non-profit organisations. But that’s where resilience comes in – of staff, partners, supporters, and of course you. None of this would have been possible without the help of our good friends. Thank you.

Wishing you a wonderful festive season – and what better gift for family and friends than a lasting “green’’ gift.

Get our latest news here

Kind regards,

Lesley

 

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.

 

Could the weather be behind the fynbos confusion?

Fynbos landscape

Fynbos is hardy, and can withstand tough weather conditions. But a recent outing on Flower Valley Farm (the home of Flower Valley Conservation Trust) highlighted just how the current weather could be impacting on our fynbos landscape.

The Western Cape is experiencing the worst drought in more than a century. And the dry spell has certainly affected Flower Valley Farm.

We recently saw how a number of fynbos species that flower in spring, had already starting flowering in the middle of winter. For example:

 

Leucospermum patersonii (Pincushions) were already blooming very early July. They usually only start to show at the end of August.

 

Even the Sewejaartjie (Edmondia sesamoides) was seen flowering in late June (they also usually flower during August).

 

And the Pelargonium elegans, a species that flowers in September, showed its colours in July.

 

During a trip around the farm in December, a species like Leonotis leonurus (known as Wild dagga) was already flowering. Traditionally these bright orange flowers would only be seen between March and May.

 

The out-of-the-ordinary flowering times may possibly be caused by the unusual weather patterns. The downpour in November was much-needed; however, rain is unusual during the summer months for our winter rainfall area – in the Overberg region of South Africa.

Now, the Flower Valley team is on high alert for the greatest summer threat: runaway fires. Plans are in place and Flower Valley has connected with our fire partners to ensure we are prepared.

If you and your family are heading to the Overstrand this festive season, please pay a visit to Flower Valley Farm for a fynbos hike or a tractor ride. Call farm manager, Marianna Afrikaner, to organise your visit to our piece of fynbos magic. But wherever you are, BE FIRE-WISE!

Email: visit@flowervalley.co.za; Tel. 028 388 0713

 

Goodbye and good luck, class of 2017!

Graduation concert

When the end of the school year approaches, there are mixed emotions for the children and teachers at the Early Learning Centre on Flower Valley Farm. It’s time for our Grade R children to say goodbye, before they start their primary school careers.

The ELC’s graduation concert took place in Gansbaai in December, celebrating the children, and the year that has passed. The class of 2017 took to the stage, performing for family and friends, with songs and rhymes, including the South African National Anthem. The children also danced to traditional Xhosa songs and the boys entertained the audience with a gumboot dance.

Even Father Christmas popped in to spoil the children with some parting gifts and invited all the children and parents to celebrate with a dance on stage.

The ELC’s Principal, Jimmona Schuurman, said that the children put so much effort and time into the graduation concert.

She had these parting words for the class of 2017: “As practitioners, we have loved teaching you and watching you grow into such curious and courageous young children. We wish you all the best for the future!”

A big congratulations to the nine children who graduated: Lily Dumont, Mikayla Mostert, Onika Yaleza, Lunathi Robhana, Asive Ngangelizwa, Iminathi Tyambe, Lakhiwe Dlova, Milisa Kwayimani and Christina Jonga. These young children are moving on to primary schools in Gansbaai and Hermanus.

 

Growing concern over poaching of Silver Brunia

Brunia laevis, or Silver Brunia

You may not know what Silver Brunia is – but chances are you’ve seen this pretty fynbos species in a bouquet before – especially around this time of year.

Brunia laevis, or Silver Brunia, is the ideal addition to a bouquet celebrating a festive occasion, like a Christmas bouquet. It’s sold around the world, with Cape Flora SA estimating that around 4.2 million stems of Brunia were exported in the past year alone.

But landowners involved in the fynbos sector warn that Silver Brunia is being poached at an unprecedented rate, with organised picking teams often working at night to pick the species.

According to fynbos producer and Cape Flora SA (CFSA) board member, Francois Prins, there are a number of reasons to be concerned. These include:

  • Silver Brunia is only found on the mid to lower mountain slopes between Caledon and Bredasdorp in the Overberg.
  • This species is also not viable as a cultivated product, and so harvesters are wholly dependent on wild Brunia populations.
  • What’s more, it attracts high prices in the export market (its estimated export value amounted to around R20-million in the last year) – and has been dubbed the ‘white gold’ of fynbos.

Brunia is listed as a species of Least Concern in the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s Red List.

 

But for Flower Valley’s team, there is reason for concern.

Our Vulnerability Index scores Silver Brunia at a 6 – which means that while it can be harvested, it must be monitored because there is a risk it may become threatened. The Vulnerability Index focuses specifically on the risks posed by harvesting, and also focuses on natural species populations found on the Agulhas Plain (which includes Bredasdorp and surrounds, but excludes Caledon).

The Business Day newspaper in South Africa picked up on this threat, and spoke to us about it. Here is the input from Flower Valley Conservation Trust’s Operations Director, Roger Bailey, in the newspaper article:

“A species like Silver Brunia, which is wild-harvested in the Overberg region, highlights the importance of sustainably managing this industry, supporting research and monitoring to understand the effect of harvesting fynbos species and working to control the poaching of species in high demand.”

The Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme has included Brunia as one of 20 fynbos species that we are monitoring. And it has been included in our Research Agenda for future support from students and researchers.

Francois warns that the illegal harvesting of Brunia endangers the Cape Flora SA brand and CFSA has appealed to its members to help ensure that illegal harvesting is stopped by not accepting product suspected as having been harvested in contravention of regulations.

 

A small reward for selfless practitioners

Milkwood Learning Workshop

As 2017 draws to a close, the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme hosted a Milkwood Learning Workshop for ECD practitioners, governing body members and field workers at Fynbos Retreat, a joint venture between Flower Valley and Grootbos. This workshop focused on nurturing and acknowledging the wonderful, selfless work that these women undertake with young children in the Overstrand region.

Activities such as painting and nature walks helped everyone to relax, trust and draw out their creativity.  These activities also highlighted the importance of self-acceptance and team work.

When it comes to self-expression and unlocking creativity, it is about the process and trusting in oneself. The practitioners experienced this through free-painting, sculptural form, land art, creative thought and time for silence in the forest.

 

 

The first five years of a child’s life are extremely important and the experiences and environment of the child in this time will have far-reaching effects in years to come. Videos and presentations at the workshop showed the ECD practitioners just how valuable their work is and how their positive inputs are having life-changing impacts on the lives of young children.

The practitioners also shared some of the barriers that they experience in their teaching practice and the team discussed ways to address these obstacles.

Flower Valley’s Kieran Whitley – who is also a reflexologist – treated all the practitioners to a rejuvenating foot massage.

The weather was chilly, but a fire, pizza and great companionship at the beautiful Fynbos Retreat made for a rewarding and insightful workshop for the women.

 

Ethical fynbos: Flower Valley’s 4-year journey

Wild fynbos landscapes.

Around 14.5 million stems of fynbos were picked from the wild fynbos landscapes of the Cape Floral Kingdom, and exported around the world last year alone. And each year that number grows.

The fynbos industry is also not small in terms of employment: Cape Flora SA estimates that fynbos provides a livelihood to around 20,000 people – many of these women from marginalised communities.

So the work to ensure fynbos stems are picked sustainably – to benefit the landscape, and those who depend on fynbos, is vital.

It’s a question that retailers are increasingly raising too – to prove to their consumers that fynbos is being ethically sourced.

 

The Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme is the only programme of its kind – providing assurance of good environmental, social and labour practice to the fynbos industry.

It’s a programme that has developed – and changed lives – over the past 15 years – thanks to the many partners on this journey.

For the past four years, the European Union and the WWF-Nedbank Green Trust have supported the sustainable picking of fynbos, through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP). And along this journey, Flower Valley has provided support to this sector to showcase its ethical products to retailers.

The support from these donors helped the SHP grow its membership base to 28 – including harvesting teams, landowners and packsheds. This support now covers an area of 75,000 hectares across the Cape Floral Kingdom where wild harvesting takes place.

 

The SHP team developed a set of tools to measure compliance of members participating in the programme.

This includes an integrated Internal Management System for exporters and distributors of wild fynbos. This system is implemented among small-scale suppliers of fynbos – supporting these suppliers to enter on a journey of continuous improvement, and to measure their improvements over time.

A Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting was developed in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, as well as a pocket field guide – when the SHP teamed up with the University of Durham and Newcastle.

Training has been provided to 200 harvesters, making use of a set of DVDs that help explain the SHP to harvesters, and ways to meet environmental, and social and labour best practice standards.

Research and monitoring has also been emphasised over the past four years. A rapid resource base assessment has been developed, which serves as a verification of harvesting practices and provides monitoring over the long-term.

The SHP team has worked closely with researchers and tertiary institutions over the period, convening a Research Working Group and developing a research agenda – which we now use as a base to work with research students.

An online Natural Resource Management database today serves as a platform for efficient storage of key harvesting information and other profiles. This allows stakeholders to easily track member progress – and will become a tool that landowners can use to implement good land management on their properties.

And information collected via field monitors is entered into this database, which over time will highlight harvesting trends, and guide best practice.

It’s been a partnership that has changed the face of sustainable fynbos harvesting – allowing for more supportive tools, increased support and even stronger relationships. From Flower Valley Conservation Trust, a huge thank you to the EU and to the WWF-Nedbank Green Trust for joining us on this journey.

 

CapeNature’s permitting system goes online

CapeNature, the conservation regulatory authority in the Western Cape, has launched a digital self-service permitting system.

That means that fynbos harvesters and landowners who allow harvesting on their properties can now apply for new licences, or renew current licences online. In the past permit applications were downloaded and submitted manually to CapeNature’s offices.

 

Who should benefit from the new system?

Those who pick fynbos, and those who export, import and sell (even retailers and farmstalls) fynbos  flora need a CapeNature permit before they are allowed to trade, as set out in legislation. Remember that picking flowers along the side of a road is illegal – unless of course you have the right permit.

It’s believed the online system will streamline the permitting process, making it more effective and easier to work with. Those applying for permits will also now be able to keep track of their current permits and pending applications easily.

The move by CapeNature has been welcomed across the fynbos industry. Operations Director, Roger Bailey says, “We work with fynbos harvesters and landowners throughout the Cape Floral Kingdom, and we’ve seen how an accessible and simple system can help to facilitate compliance.”

CapeNature is now advising those involved in the fynbos industry to register on CapeNature’s website as a new permit owner – even if you are already in possession of a permit.

Here’s an online guide, compiled by CapeNature, to the new online system:

 

Get your permit here

 

We’re looking for a Field Control Officer to join the Alien Clearing Project

conservationFlower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT) is a registered Public Benefit Organisation, based in the Overberg. The Trust acts as an Implementing Agent for an Invasive Alien Clearing Programme in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The Trust is advertising a short-term contract (for a period of 4 months on the provision to extend the contract for 1 year) in the Alien Clearing Project:

 

Field Control Officer

 Main Job functions

  • To support the coordination of alien clearing operations in-field;
  • To monitor clearing performances and quality against the Working for Water policy requirements;
  • To assess, guide and monitor compliances to health & safety standards;
  • To coordinate and manage all health and safety meetings amongst alien invasive contracting teams;
  • To coordinate the collection of in-field clearing data and provide regular reports on the clearing progress against the annual operational clearing plan;
  • To support the management and coordination of all invasive alien clearing monitoring requirements;
  • To create GIS maps of all invasive alien treatment areas against prescribed mapping guidelines on which annual clearing plans and budgets are based;
  • To ground truth and provide in-field guidance to landowners and contracting teams to identify the boundaries of clearing treatment areas;
  • To provide extension support to landowners and contracting teams on prescribed invasive alien treatment methods.

 

Minimum qualifications & experience:

  • 3-year working conservation or similar experience;
  • Experience in the use and management of GIS software;
  • Experience in mapping and field work;
  • Data collection and management experience;
  • Arranging and coordinating stakeholder meetings and taking minutes;
  • Experience in invasive alien plant control treatments;
  • Good communication and facilitation skills;
  • Proficient in English & Afrikaans. IsiXhosa would be an advantage;
  • Computer literacy and a valid driver’s license;
  • Off-roading (4×4) experience advantageous;
  • Knowledge of fynbos/invasive plants and ecology advantageous;
  • Based in Gansbaai, Stanford, Bredasdorp and surrounds.

 

A salary will be negotiated, dependent on qualifications and experience, for the position.

Deadline: Wednesday 6 December 2017

Please send your CV, a cover letter, and two contactable references to madelyn@flowervalley.co.za or fax 028 425 2855. For more information, contact 028 425 2218 during office hours.