Can you guess the number one threat to our magical fynbos on the Agulhas Plain?
It’s not too hard: the answer is invasive alien plants.
We understand from those in the know that invasive plants take up enough water to fill around 33,000 Olympic-size swimming pools every year on the Agulhas Plain alone. It’s mind-blowing to think what this quantity works out to across the whole country.
So, as water becomes increasingly scarce, addressing the challenge of invasives has never been more important.
That’s why we were really pleased when the Alien Clearing Project, coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust (under the banner of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative) got started again.
Here’s our target: 15,000 hectares cleared over the next 4 months giving employment to 160 local people employed in 17 teams.
And following that: our ongoing efforts, working with our key partners in the private and public sectors, to ensure all that we gain now in this war on invasives isn’t lost in future.
Since September 1998 the ECD programme has served the children, families and teachers of the Overstrand with great commitment, passion and skills. The programme has grown tremendously in these 18 years.
The arrival of spring bought not only a burst of flowers but also five beautiful, committed, passionate and skilled people to our ECD team. We work together to improve the quality of life through the service we deliver daily to young children, their caregivers, parents and teachers.
We can now build on the solid foundation of work, partnerships and relationships that have developed over the past 18 years.
So meet our four new team members:
Cath joined the ECD team in July. She has a Library Science degree, a diploma in Environmental Education and a MA in Fine Arts. Her experience as a librarian, environmental educator, research assistant, nature guide and in running her own business adds great value to our programme.
Her understanding of the interconnected nature of the health of families, children and the environment and her excellent sense of humour and dedication are some of her many special qualities.
She joins us in an administrative, management and governance role where she supports and coaches centre management committees, and manages and administers the ECD programme.
Kieran joined the team in September as our Home Based Co-ordinator and Support Teacher. Her initial contact with Flower Valley was as a volunteer where her loving and caring spirit shone brightly.
Kieran has a Social Work degree and experience in special needs and community work with an environmental slant. She brings with her experience as a massage therapist, a love for gardening, walking in the mountains and horse riding. Her open-hearted nature and educational background unfolds in her love for serving vulnerable children.
Elizabeth also joined us in September and is one of those people who you know will find a solution in a difficult situation. She is pragmatic, efficient, kind, grounded and confident. Elizabeth has a degree in Foundation Phase education and an Honours Degree in Inclusive Education and is our Registration and Learning Programme Coordinator.
She brings to the team teaching and ECD project management experience and has a passion for empowering women personally and professionally in a teaching and learning environment. She also has a great understanding of the value of play in early childhood and skills in addressing barriers to learning.
Natasha De Wet
Natasha is an angel. A wife of a farmer and a mother of three boys, she lives just outside Baardskeerdersbos and is our Home Based Field Worker. The compassion, care and attention that she brings to vulnerable families is an inspiration.
She goes way beyond the call of duty and in her time working at Flower Valley has already had a life-changing impact on the families of the Baardskeerdersbos area. She is currently completing her level 1 qualification in ECD and will continue her educational journey in ECD.
A final word from me:
From me Gabrielle, the ECD Programme Manager, I extend my gratitude to these four women and to the donors that believe and invest in the service we deliver. Every day children’s lives are better due to the love and commitment of women such as Cath, Kieran, Elizabeth and Natasha. Every day the power of play and care changes the lives of children and families.
We still have a long way to go and the challenges are great, but with such an inspired team and with the love and beauty of the children and families that we work with, we feel confident about the road ahead.
Working closely with the Fynbos Trust, the non-profit organisation that organised the school camp, Flower Valley accommodated two groups of children and invited them to connect with nature outside of the classroom. The camp activities aimed at giving the scholars a broader experience encompassing wilderness, leadership and different ways of thinking.
During the camp, the Grade 9’s were treated to activities like an “amazing race”, in-field flower picking demonstrations, night hikes and potjiekos competitions.
Flower Valley staff also got involved. The Sustainable Harvesting team presented on the value of protecting ecosystems and the Early Childhood Development Programme team focused on the wellbeing of children.
Flower Valley also hosted third year Conservation Ecology Stellenbosch University students during the month.
This trip focused on sustainability and ecology. The students learnt about the sustainable harvesting of fynbos, and enjoyed farm hikes, fynbos picking demonstrations, herbarium discussions, species collections and planting an indigenous tree in the forest.
During both visits, the Flower Valley Conservation Trust team got to see the passion and willingness to learn more about our natural environment and why we should protect it, highlighting the importance of environmental education and connecting our youth with fynbos.
Invasive alien clearing, under the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) banner, has started up again across the Agulhas Plain. The alien clearing project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust (the Coordination Unit and Secretariat of ABI), with funds for the clearing operations sourced from the Department of Environmental Affairs.
That means that around 160 project participants are back in the natural landscapes across the Plain. They’ll be clearing around 15,000 hectares over the next four months.
The project is once again operating according to an innovative model: the Flower Valley team works with nine conservancies and land user groups, who in turn work with their landowner members.
Through this model, Flower Valley Conservation Trust (a Public Benefit Organisation) serves as the implementing agent, the key contact with the Department of Environmental Affairs.
The conservancies play a major role in rolling out and implementing the project, and provide extensive co-funding to the clearing operations.
The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative is a landscape initiative, structured as a voluntary association that serves the Overberg area. ABI has four themes according to which it works, the first being integrated land-use planning, including the clearing of invasive species.
Alien invasives are one of the biggest threats to the Overberg’s natural landscapes – especially the area’s threatened fynbos vegetation.
From 2013, the ABI Alien Clearing Project has cleared approximately 30,000 hectares per year up to 2016. Since then, the Flower Valley team has been in constant communications with the Department of Environmental Affairs, to ensure the gains made in the past are not lost.
Fynbos offers a number of tasty foodie options. So on World Food Day (16 October), we’re taking a slightly different view of fynbos – to see how to use fynbos in food (responsibly, of course), and some of the medicinal benefits.
Great SA Bake Off Judge, Tjaart Walraven, and Vineyard Chef, Carl van Rooyen, compiled a fynbos-infused selection of sweets and savoury treats.
Wild rosemary offers a natural way to fight an oncoming cold. It also promotes healthy hair and skin, with rich anti-ageing properties.
It also helps ease off a migraine, and reduces stress and anxiety.
2. Orange and Citrus Buchu Crème Brûlée
Buchu offers wonderful medicinal benefits. For example, eating buchu or drinking buchu tea helps to improve your immune system (a great natural way to re-energise when you’re feeling a bit flat).
It’s also handy if you have a bit of a hangover, or a bladder infection. And it serves as a natural insect repellant against mosquitos.
3. Sour Fig Jam Baked Cheesecake
Sour figs are considered to be anti-fungal, antiseptic and antibacterial. They’re also great for treating scars: they’re said to help regenerate cells, while the juice helps to treat burns and wounds.
Sour figs also help when you have digestive troubles, and mouth and stomach ulcers.
Of course, we recommend you harvest your fynbos responsibly – not damaging the plant during the picking process, and leaving seed stock in the veld, so that new plants can continue to grow across the landscapes.
First we were thrilled to see pictures on the camera traps in our secretive forest of a leopard with two small cubs. Now they’ve grown fast, so to quickly reach an age where they are less vulnerable and can protect themselves (about 5 months old), and are happily hopping up the trees. The perfect way to celebrate #WorldAnimalDay and raise awareness of our fynbos animals.
Secondly, months of research has shown that the Cape Leopards and the cubs find the Flower Valley Forest a place of comfort, safety and play. And they’re not the only ones – with the forest a hub for wildlife. This is a conservation area, and for us it’s vital it stays untouched and pristine. What’s interesting to know is that female cubs usually stay with their mothers for two years and males about 3 before they go out by themselves.
Congratulations and thank you to Mike Fabricius at Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy for sharing the leopard research with us. We are looking forward to watching these two little ones grow and explore the Walker Bay mountains!
We celebrated World Outdoor Classroom Day on Thursday, 7 September – a day that resonates with the Early Learning Centre’s ethos.
So what is #OutdoorClassroomDay?
What started out as a few schools in the UK trying to create awareness around learning and playing outdoors back in 2012, now sees nearly 16,000 schools in 52 countries across the globe joining in to celebrate what the outdoors have to offer when it comes to a child’s education.
World Outdoor Classroom day takes place a few times a year, encouraging schools throughout the world to put on civvies, go outside and use nature to help them learn. Taking part in Outdoor Classroom Day encourages problem-solving skills, better social skills, team-work skills, a bigger understanding of nature and tons of fun.
The ELC’s activities:
As an eco-school, the ELC joined in the Outdoor Classroom Day, spending most of their day at the dam on Flower Valley Farm. The children and practitioners walked in pairs to the dam where they collected water in containers.
Here the children were encouraged to talk about ways in which they can save water and what animals are dependent on our water systems. The discussion also focused on water safety. From there, they made clay art with the water and the fynbos they found around them and explained their creations to each other.
World Outdoor Classroom Day is an exceptional day to celebrate what Mother Earth has to offer and how you can use her knowledge to grow.
Learning in nature has been one of the biggest focus areas for our ELC and we encourage more schools to join in on #OutdoorClassroomDay on 12 October 2017.
The Sustainable Harvesting team has received additional support to test new fynbos monitoring methods. A field monitor, Daylene van Riet has joined the team. She will now work with fynbos harvesters who are members of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, together testing the field monitoring method and capturing fynbos harvesting data.
Daylene will also assist veld harvesters to follow the sustainable harvesting principles, record field assessment data correctly and complete independent fynbos assessments and capture this information digitally.
Rupert Koopman, Botanist for CapeNature and member of the Sustainable Harvesting Steering Committee joined the SHP team with Daylene, to advise on the monitoring system and improve it where necessary. Trevor Adams, Botanist for SANParks, also joined the team recently to better understand the monitoring methodology. Adams specialises in monitoring species of special concern in fynbos and wetlands.
With this monitoring system in place, the Sustainable Harvesting team will remain on top of harvesting trends, to help support the responsible harvesting of key species. The system is being rolled out in the Agulhas Plain area as a starting point, and will later be implemented across other harvesting areas across the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT) is a registered Public Benefit Organisation, based on Flower Valley Farm, outside Gansbaai in the Overstrand. The Trust runs an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme – working in the Gansbaai area of the Overstrand region with five ECD centres and a home-based programme.
ECD registration support field worker
To support the ECD Programme in coordinating and supporting the registration of ECD partial care facilities in the Gansbaai and Stanford area.
To support registered and unregistered ECD sites on the road to registration and re-registration;
Support and monitoring of implementation plans;
Management and organisation of logistics for training and capacity building;
Site visits and monitoring;
Auditing, reporting and filing;
Registration project documents and schedule management
Minimum qualifications & experience:
Excellent administration and management skills
Problem solving, creative thinking and team work skills
Efficiency and co-ordination skills
Good communication and people skills (minimum of English and Afrikaans, Xhosa a benefit)
Understanding of community development dynamics and processes
Experience in project management or supervision
Experience in the Early Childhood Development, Education or Community development sectors
MS word computer skills including excel
Drivers licence and own transport
Own lap top or computer (not essential but preferable)
Must be based in or around Gansbaai
A market-related salary will be negotiated, dependent on qualifications and experience, for each position.
Deadline: Friday 1 September 2017
Please send your CV, a cover letter, and two contactable references to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 028 388 0442. For more information, contact 028 388 0713 during office hours.
Women’s Day seemed the perfect time for the women of our Early Childhood Development Programme to come together at Fynbos Retreat, to attend the Milkwood Workshop.
The workshop connected the 16 practitioners and programme team working toward quality delivery of ECD services to five centres that Flower Valley Conservation Trust supports.
Over the two days, the practitioners looked at ways in which young children learn, and how teachers can continue reaching them. The time together was spent making valuable connections as a team of professionals that deliver an essential service to young children and families.
The women also spoke of the importance of self-discovery as a mentor. They were encouraged to self-reflect and ask themselves critical questions during the forest walk and feedback sessions. And to express themselves artistically through clay and weaving art.
Taking a look at autism
Social worker, Kieran Whitley, also presented a talk on autism. She has focused her studies on children with special needs. Kieran explained how best work with children with autism, what techniques work best in high pressure situations and how activities like brain-gym can be used to benefit children’s development.
The women enjoyed getting to know each other during their stay at Fynbos Retreat. Nicole Arends, Principal at Seesterretjies Centre, noted how all the practitioners share a common goal: caring for the children in the Overstrand. She said this opportunity gave her a chance to share her knowledge and stories, while learning even more.
The Early Childhood Development Programme focuses on creating a holistic development environment for young children and their primary caregivers and educators, while weaving the green thread throughout their education. This can only be done when reflection takes place, and planning happens for the future.
We are looking forward to the next workshop later this year.