ABI Alien Clearing Project celebrates first year

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The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project is celebrating the completion of its first year. The project is coordinated by the Flower Valley Conservation Trust team. It has seen more than 25,000 hectares cleared of invasive aliens, and 347 beneficiaries employed in year one.

The project is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) through its Land User Incentive Scheme, with co-funding provided by partners involved in the project. DEA funded the project’s first year activities to the tune of R6-million, while landowners and other participants contributed substantial time and effort to cover planning and management costs.

The ABI model has seen land user groups such as conservancies take on a major role in the planning and roll out of the project. These groups work closely with the 34 contracting teams undertaking the clearing. Local municipalities, non-governmental organisations, SANParks and CapeNature were also members of the project’s Implementation Committee, playing a major role in the success to date.

According to Roger Bailey, Conservation Manager at Flower Valley Conservation Trust and Coordinator of the ABI Alien Clearing Project, the model has allowed alien clearing to take place strategically across much of the Agulhas Plain. “The level of involvement of the various stakeholders has also been a major strength of the project, with all the partners ultimately taking responsibility for the work. The assistance we’ve received from key DEA staff has also been instrumental in assisting us, as we pioneer this project.”

It’s also hoped that an assessment of the first year’s activities will highlight areas where the project can be improved and can be run more efficiently. “We’re testing a new way of doing things, and as such, we’ve learnt a lot along the way. For example, the administration that is required in this project has called for an enormous effort from all partners. But the project has benefited from the very fact that systems can be tested and improved.”

An opportunity also exists to further improve knowledge on invasive alien clearing methodologies and the model, through research and monitoring. Bailey says, “Different species require different methods of clearing. Our experience in the veld can now assist us to become better at clearing and to share that where we can. We can also highlight from veld observations that the current favourable weather conditions for plant growth have boosted the regeneration of invader plant species, which in turn has impacted on the project’s clearing work.”

The ABI Alien Clearing Coordination team has now worked with relevant stakeholders to compile the annual plan of operations for the second year. This forms the basis on which the project will implement its clearing plan in the coming year.

Flower Valley Vacancies

Flower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT) is a registered Public Benefit Organisation,fv based on Flower Valley Farm, outside Gansbaai in the Overstrand.

The Trust is now advertising for two positions for the next three years: a) Coordinator: Conservation Extension and Applied Research and b) Ethical Trade Coordinator. The positions will either be based in Bredasdorp, or at Flower Valley Farm.

a) Coordinator: Conservation Extension and Applied Research

The responsibilities of the position include:
1. Coordinate with stakeholders to develop the Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme’s (SHP) monitoring and research agenda, publicise agenda and integrate results into the SHP.
2. Forge close associations with landowners and harvesters to champion best practice land management and sustainable use within the SHP.
3. Oversee collection of data for the SHP database, and provide data analysis.
4. Coordinate working groups to update and develop new vulnerability indices.
5. Carry out resource-based assessments in partnership with landowners.
6. Carry out pre-audit support to land users and harvesters around meeting good land management practice compliance.
7. Share lessons and report on outcomes at relevant forums.

Minimum qualifications & experience:
• Graduate or equivalent qualification in Natural Resource Management, Biodiversity Conservation, Resource Economics and Extension Services.
• 5 years relevant experience in Conservation or Natural Resource Management Extension work.
• Preference given to candidates with experience in interacting with role players in the fields of Natural Resource Management, Biodiversity Conservation and Agricultural Best Practice.
• Preference given to a candidate who has coordinated monitoring and research strategies, and who can interpret data for publication.
• Computer literacy; mapping skills.
• Valid driver’s license.

b) Ethical Trade Coordinator

The responsibilities of the position include:
1. Work closely with fynbos industry representatives and organisations to further develop the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) to be viable to producers and attractive to the market.
2. Market the programme to producers and retailers.
3. Negotiate with third-party audit companies to build their capacity to undertake audits based on the Code of Best Practice.
4. Represent the programme at appropriate forums and meetings.
5. Work with fynbos suppliers where appropriate to further encourage social and labour best practice compliance.
6. Undertake basic awareness raising of the SHP with relevant stakeholders.
7. Work closely with the Coordinator: Conservation Extension and Applied Research to ensure the SHP’s ethical trade declarations are measurable.

Minimum qualifications & experience:
• Graduate or equivalent qualifications in particular from the field of sustainability, ethical trade, corporate responsibility, or a related field.
• 5 years relevant experience in ethical trade or corporate responsibility project management;
• Or 5 years marketing and supply chain management experience.
• Computer literacy.
• Valid driver’s license.

A market-related salary will be negotiated, dependent on qualifications and experience, for both positions.

Deadline: 26 February 2014

Please send your CV, a cover letter, and two contactable references to londeka@flowervalley.co.za or fax 028 425 2855. Please state which position you’re applying for in the subject line. For more information, contact 028 425 2218 during office hours.

New offices for Flower Valley

Flower Valley Conservation Trust has moved into new offices in Bredasdorp. This office isoffice the home of the Trust’s administrative activities. However, the Trust’s official home remains Flower Valley Farm, based just outside Gansbaai, in the Overstrand Municipality.

The new address of the Trust is 44 Villiers Street in Bredasdorp. We look forward to welcoming all our partners and friends to the new premises.

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Active field monitoring ready to launch

Fynbos field monitors are now ready to start actively monitoring the fynbos areas in which article4they live and work. The trainees received their official Field Monitoring certificates in December, at a ceremony held on Flower Valley Farm.

The trainees, including farm workers, flower pickers and alien clearers working on the Agulhas Plain, attended three modules leading to an accredited course over the past six months – Fynbos Ecology, Sustainable Harvesting and Research & Monitoring. The training formed part of the Flower Valley Agulhas Plain Fynbos Monitoring Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme (implemented by the United Nations Development Programme). The Grootbos Foundation presented the training.

According to Grootbos Foundation’s Sean Privett at the ceremony, the work for these students starts now. “The training is just the key; it’s how you put this to use afterwards, and how you incorporate the knowledge, that matters. We want to involve people on the ground to do the field monitoring, to ensure the information compiled stays here on the Agulhas Plain.”

Now that the training is complete, the participants will start to use their skills to help researchers glean more information on fynbos. The idea is to spot potential trends and threats to fynbos, and feed that information through to a research coordinator soon to be appointed by Flower Valley Conservation Trust.

Trainees will also be able to monitor the impacts of invasive alien clearing on fynbos landscapes. Many alien clearers are part of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project, and as such, will be clearing the natural veld of invasive plants over the next three years.

According to the Project Coordinator, Roger Bailey, this provides the ideal opportunity through which local people are capacitated and their skills integrated into broader coordinated research and monitoring practices, which will ultimately inform future fynbos landscape management. “The field monitors will be able to help us improve our knowledge of fynbos, and also how the invasive alien clearing efforts are benefiting the fynbos and natural veld.”

Research training on Flower Valley Farm

Local people working as fynbos harvesters and farmworkers have been receiving researchfynbosresearch and monitoring training on Flower Valley Farm – with the aim to ultimately become ‘custodians’ of our veld. Under the Agulhas Plain Fynbos Monitoring Project, the trainees are receiving skills to effectively monitor the natural vegetation, and to help spot any potential threats to our fynbos.

The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme (implemented by the United Nations Development Programme). Through the project, up to 30 trainees have now received training in understanding fynbos, sustainable harvesting, and now in research and monitoring.

The training will be completed in November, with candidates to write exams on what they have learnt. After that, the field monitors will return to their areas of work, to monitor the fynbos veld. Some of the trainees are also involved in the ABI Alien Clearing Project – giving them the opportunity to monitor the effects of removing invasive alien plants on fynbos. Few alien clearing projects include research on the impacts on natural vegetation over the long term.

Flower Valley showcased in new TMF book

Flower Valley Conservation Trust features in a new book detailing the activities of the tmf4Table Mountain Fund (TMF) over the last 20 years. The TMF has been a supporter and donor of the Trust and the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) in the past.

The book celebrates the TMF’s history and conservation projects across the Cape Floristic Region. The TMF, which officially launched in 1993, has supported over 150 conservation-related projects, to the value of some R100-milllion.

Projects supported range from scientific research to conservation initiatives that help local people derive a sustainable living from the biodiversity, such as fynbos (as is the case with Flower Valley). The book was written by well-known conservation journalist John Yeld.

Flower Valley is proud to be a part of the book, having played (and continuing to play) a key role in fynbos conservation and social upliftment.

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What it means to learn about fynbos

An account from farm worker Francois Rooi after participating in the Fynbos Ecologyarticle1_2 module, as part of the Agulhas Plain Fynbos Monitoring project.

I grew up in the Overberg and have lived here my entire life. I have always been a person who enjoyed the outdoors, but never really knew what grows and lives in our fynbos veld. This was my first course about fynbos, and I found it very interesting.

I learned about the plant families and the different habitats. I can now tell you about proteas, ericas and restios found in fynbos veld. I now know that the Cape Floristic Region stretches from Port Elizabeth to Niewoudtville, is home to 9000 indigenous plants, and is the smallest floral kingdom, covering 90,000 square kilometres. To study something so valuable is wonderful.

I now look forward to learning about sustainable harvesting and much more, and know I’ll appreciate the environment more following this course. Maybe one day I can become a veld ranger, and help keep our world green.

What more can one ask than to live in such a floral kingdom as this.

Flower Valley at the Cape Floral Kingdom Expo

Sustainable fynbos picking and care for the fynbos heritage was showcased through the capefloralSustainable Harvesting Programme at the Cape Floral Kingdom Expo in Bredasdorp at the weekend. Flower Valley Conservation Trust and theAgulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI – which Flower Valley currently coordinates) manned stands at the event.

The Expo was held between 29 August and 1 September. It aimed to highlight the five biomes within the Cape Floral Kingdom: fynbos, renosterveld, Succulent Karoo, Cape thicket and afromontane forests.

The Expo also hosted the Protea Producers of South Africa (PPSA) and South African Protea Producers and Exporters (SAPPEX) annual general meetings. PPSA is the representative body of the fynbos industry – including wild and cultivated harvesters. Flower Valley’s Executive Director Lesley Richardson is Vice-Chairperson at the PPSA.

According Lynn Hoffman, Chair of SAPPEX, 2013 is expected to produce prices in line with those seen in 2012 for cultivated fynbos. However, she said the industry is facing numerous challenges, including the need to further develop markets. The PPSA through the Joint Marketing Forum (JMF) is seeking new markets. As such, the JMF is now undertaking crucial market research, information collection, and is developing fynbos marketing material.

Through a separate marketing strategy, the Department of Trade and Industry has joined forces with the South Africa Flower Export Council to research potential markets for flowers. This initiative is currently assessing opportunities in India, Russia, the Middle East and Thailand. The report on the findings of the researchers is due to be released in the coming weeks.

Hoffman also highlighted concerns of wage-related unrest in the agriculture sector. The sector was hard hit last year by strikes, with the Department of Labour increasing the minimum wage for workers in agriculture. She said the industry would assess the need for mechanisation where appropriate.

The PPSA and SAPPEX also made their ‘Best Practice Guidelines and Certification Guide for the SA Protea Industry’ available to land users at the AGM. The guide assists land users to implement best practice principles, and is particularly helpful for harvesters who cannot afford formal certification.