Meet our contractor, Martina Appolis

Martina Appolis realised early in her career that she wanted to be a small business owner. So working her way up over time, Martina registered as a contractor in 2013.

 

Today she works with Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to clear emerging invaders on the Agulhas Plain.

She has had to make use of innovative new techniques to clear Kangaroo Paw, Mauritian Hemp and Australian Bottlebrush. And Martina and her team have collected data on the new invasives – and shared their findings with SANBI.

Why does she love this work?

Because she can see the difference it makes in the lives of those she works with. And because it’s given her the chance to show that women can do this job – and do it well.

Martina chats to Flower Valley’s Stanley Engel on International Women’s Day, giving advice to women entrepreneurs. And suggesting how women can work in ways that men simply can’t.

Position: Assistant Farm Manager for Flower Valley Farm

Flower Valley Conservation Trust is an NGO situated in the Agulhas Region with a key focus on improving livelihoods and natural resource management for the conservation of Fynbos. At the centre of the Trust is the Flower Valley Farm, near Gansbaai, consisting of 540Ha of pristine fynbos. The farm showcases good land use management, and provides a platform for research, monitoring and learning for the activities of the organisation. A wonderful opportunity is available for an Assistant Farm Manager to contribute towards conservation.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Ensure update and implementation of the farm management plan.
  • Ensure that all infrastructure (buildings, roads, hiking trails, boardwalks and water transfer systems) on the farm is well maintained.
  • Maintain an up to date register and maintenance schedule for all farm assets.
  • Create and maintain firebreaks in accordance with the farm management plan that meets legal compliance.
  • Ensure that preparation work for control burns are met and assist with fire management on the farm.
  • Manage and keep accurate records of assets, herbicide control and petrol usages on the farm.
  • Ensure that the farm meets all health and safety compliances.
  • Ensure that all signage on the farm is in place and well maintained.
  • Meet guests and visitors to the farm.
  • Provide and coordinate logistical support for ecotourism activities where required to visitors & guests for example, fynbos tours and tractor rides
  • Supervise all farm staff directly involved in the operational duties of the farm, and any other people contracted in for specialised services such as fynbos harvesting, building contractors and invasive alien contracting teams.
  • General office duties relating to the above activities.

 

REQUIREMENTS

  • Dynamic and creative person who enjoys being outdoors, as well as working with people.
  • Must be practical and hands-on to assist with the day-to-day activities.
  • Previous experience in maintenance of infrastructure or permaculture.
  • An appropriate qualification in Nature Conservation, Agriculture or FGASA training.
  • Good computer literacy skills.
  • Knowledge of fynbos and local indigenous forests.
  • Good knowledge and experience with fynbos fires.
  • Experience with data collection for ongoing monitoring.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license. A PDP and EB license will be an advantage.
  • Experience in driving a tractor and trailer.
  • Speak at least two of South Africa’s official languages.
  • Confident to engage with the public and showcase the work done on the farm.
  • Pro-active and self-motivated individual.

Salary package will be discussed based on an individual’s experience. A job competency test may be done before an individual is appointed.

Apply by submitting your CV and a motivation letter to fynbos@flowervalley.co.za by the 12th of March 2019.

 

Tips on how to remove 3 new invasive plant species

It’s quite simply not that easy to remove any invasive alien plant. Each species requires a different technique to try to prevent it from re-growing.

The same applies to three ‘new’ and emerging invasive alien plant species found to be growing on the Agulhas Plain: Kangaroo Paw, Mauritian Hemp and Australian bottlebrush.

The species are now being cut down and removed by a Flower Valley alien clearing team, partnering with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Here are practical tips to – as successfully as possible – remove these plants, and prevent them from spreading.

1. KANGAROO PAW (Anigozanthos flavidus)

If the Kangaroo Paw plants are in dense stands, SANBI advises the careful use of herbicide (but extreme care must be taken to prevent spray drift, which could affect other species). Where plants are pulled out, the biomass must be placed on large black plastic sheets, and then they must be sprayed again with herbicide, to enhance decay.

2: MAURITIAN HEMP (Furcraea foetida)

The leaves of the Mauritian Hemp must be slashed, before it is foliar-sprayed. Without this step, the plant may not take in the herbicide. Again, care must be taken to prevent spray-drift when applying the herbicide.

3: AUSTRALIAN BOTTLEBRUSH (Melaleuca linearis)

Small plants should be hand pulled – although you must ensure that the roots are removed. Where the trees are cut down, herbicide must be applied to the stump immediately after cutting down the plant. SANBI recommends using a diluted imazapyr herbicide.

In the case of the Australian Bottlebrush, there is also extreme concern regarding the seeds. Each capsule on the seed cone contains around 60 seeds – which like Hakea, opens a few days after being killed. This facilitates the spread of the species.

In the Stanford area, where the Bottlebrush has been found, the fantastic, supportive landowner is ensuring that ALL seeds are removed from all the cut trees. This is not easy work, but is vital to prevent spread.

If you find any of these three invasive species in the Agulhas Plain, please get in touch with us. Email: stanley@flowervalley.co.za with the details (including the location).

Sustainable wildflower harvesting assurance: Adding value to the industry

Does the wildflower harvesting industry need a Sustainable Flower Harvesting Assurance System – and if so, how should it be structured to add value to the industry and make business sense?

 

An initiative to address this is currently being led by TOMA-Now | Tomorrow Matters Now together with Flower Valley Conservation Trust, supported by the Biodiversity Component of the Western Cape Government Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (Department). The development of a sustainable wildflower harvesting assurance system is being explored in terms of the value it could bring to the industry.

A clear and viable business plan is the first step to the development of a feasible strategy for the implementation of this assurance system across the Western Cape. It forms part of the Western Cape’s Provincial Biodiversity Economy Strategy, to support and create opportunities within the green economy.

What’s the business potential?

 

The targeted outcome is to facilitate the development and implementation of a sustainable flower harvesting assurance system.

“This is an opportunity to create an inclusive approach to propel the industry forward. The key to the development of the assurance system is to understand the value it can bring while highlighting the uniqueness of Fynbos and the legacy of the harvesters,” said Dr Jaisheila Rajput, CEO of TOMA-Now.

According to Flower Valley’s Conservation Manager, Kirsten Watson, key stakeholders in the industry, particularly the Western Cape, are engaging in transparent discussions. “We are excited by this process – there’s extremely important information being gathered. It’s important that legislators understand the advantages, and some of the challenges currently facing the sector. The business plan will look to provide solutions to some of these challenges. So this is a powerful opportunity for the Fynbos sector.”

Albert Ackhurst, Head of Component Biodiversity at the Department, said:  “The Department Environmental Affairs and Development Planning through the Biodiversity Management Unit views the project as a major step forward to ensure transformation, access to global markets and equitable trading in the natural products industry.” 

Sharpening the industry’s value proposition

 

The dialogues themselves are being used to obtain a clearer understanding of the business potential for the assurance system. They will establish the viability of an assurance system, the benefits this will afford and ultimately, sharpen the value proposition for the industry.

The impetus of this work is based on the recognition by the Department that there is a need to effectively manage and coordinate biodiversity management in an inclusive manner. There needs to be an increase in capacity and knowledge of the requirements to competitively practice in the sector. This challenge is exacerbated by onerous and costly processes linked to attaining certification for the industry.

According to Ackhurst, “If stakeholders agree, and the business plan supports the implementation of an assurance system, the focus will be on potentially having a system that is a coordinated step-up approach in building the capacity and competence of the harvesters and farmers towards attaining compliance.”

The process will be completed by April 2019 when the outcomes, findings and reports will be communicated with organisations in the flower sector.

 

10 tips on how you SHOULD harvest Fynbos (to do it right)

What does it mean to pick Fynbos sustainably?

There are a couple of things you should do – and some things you really shouldn’t do, when picking Fynbos if you’re wanting to pick responsibly.

For the past 15 years, Flower Valley has been working on, improving and further refining these steps – to make it as simple as possible for you.

Here are 10 harvesting guidelines to steer you in the right direction

(these guidelines are for you IF you enjoy picking Fynbos for yourself in small quantities. There are a couple of extra guidelines if you’re picking large quantities for the market).

1. THE RIGHT PERMITS

You need to get a permit from CapeNature to pick the Fynbos. If the Fynbos is on someone else’s land, you also need an agreement with that landowner. (Remember, flora carries the same weight legally as protected animals. So if you want to remove protected plants, you need a permit.)

2: SELECT WHAT TO PICK

Decide what you’ll be picking, and be sure it’s included on your permit. Then be sure to pick the right species, given that so many species look alike.

3: USE CLEAN AND SHARP TOOLS

Secateurs and sickles should be sharp and clean. Why? Sharp tools help to avoid splitting stems, which could allow water to penetrate the stems and could cause rot. Clean tools help to prevent spreading disease. One plant may have a disease, which you then spread to a healthy plant. This could impact on Fynbos populations.

4: CARING FOR THE VELD AROUND YOU

You should still care for all plants across the Cape Floral Kingdom. So be careful not to break and uproot plants as you walk and drive. And try to use only existing roads, instead of driving over pristine Fynbos.

5: CUT ONLY HALF THE FLOWER HEADS

Flower Valley recommends that you leave flower heads and cones, so that the plant can reproduce and spread naturally the next year. If a fire comes through a Fynbos veld, you also need enough seed to stay behind to spread naturally.

6: HARVEST EVENLY

This means you spread the cuts around the plant (as opposed to just harvesting one side of a plant). If you don’t cut evenly, you could create exposed areas on the plant that may make it vulnerable to poor weather conditions.

7: CHECK WHERE YOU CUT

This step is relevant for single stemmed plants (like the Phaenocoma).  Cut the stem ABOVE a few shoots. This ensures those shoots can grow out after you’ve cut the plant.

8: CUT AT AN ANGLE

Why? By cutting at an angle, you allow water to run off the cut. If water can’t run off a cut, it could end up rotting the stem.

9: DON’T CUT INTO OLD GROWTH

This is quite a technical step that’s only relevant to species such as Proteas and Leucadendrons, because they die from the bottom up when they’re old. If you cut into the dead growth of these species, no stems will grow from these cuts. So it’s important to only cut into living stems to give the plant a chance to re-grow from that stem.

10: DON’T LEAVE LITTER BEHIND

If you’re a plant lover, you’re unlikely to do this. Litter is obviously detrimental to all the Fynbos animals (think: bailing twine around a Blue Crane’s leg).

The importance of being responsible with our Fynbos heritage.

When you pick Fynbos (for yourself or for the market at a larger scale), chances are you’d like to know whether you’re damaging or helping the veld.

That’s why the Sustainable Harvesting Programme started (in 2003): to provide a toolkit of sustainable practices in the fynbos industry, to support those who pick fynbos for markets.

If partners can help manage the land properly and address invasive alien plants, we can together help ensure a lush, vibrant Fynbos landscape, and help prevent Fynbos extinctions. Find out more about our Sustainable Harvesting Programme.

Look out for these 3 ‘new’ threatening invasive plants

Three new and emerging invasive alien species are being targeted on the Agulhas Plain.

The plan is to rid the area of these three species – before they spread beyond their current farm boundaries, threatening our region’s biodiversity. 

A Flower Valley Conservation Trust alien clearing team is removing the species, working with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

And residents of the Agulhas Plain are now asked to get involved: To contact Flower Valley Conservation Trust if you come across any of these three species.

 

The three are:

  • Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus)
  • Mauritian Hemp (Furcraea foetida)
  • Australian Bottlebrush (Melaleuca linearis)

 

 

Here’s why the experts are so concerned about these invasive species:

1. KANGAROO PAW

This species is native to Western Australia. But it’s very adaptable to most soil types – even water-stressed areas (like South Africa). It’s immune to most fungal attacks – and SANBI warns it could pose a threat to the rich biodiversity of the Agulhas Plain. It has been growing on two farms in the Plain, where our alien clearing team has been working to remove them.

2: MAURITIAN HEMP

This species is originally from the Caribbean and tropical South America. But it’s extremely invasive, and not only in South Africa (it’s invasive in Eastern and South-Western Australia too). You’ll find it in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It was found to be growing in the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area – with immediate action taken to remove it. It’s listed as a Category 1a plant invader – which means it must be eradicated.

3: AUSTRALIAN BOTTLEBRUSH

The narrow-leaved bottlebrush is very concerning to SANBI because it so easily outcompetes native vegetation. That’s a worry for our rich fynbos landscapes. It has been found on a farm near Stanford in the Plain (although it has also been found in Wolseley, Tulbagh and Rooi Els). It’s a member of the Myrtle family, endemic to New South Wales and Queensland in Australia.

Flower Valley’s latest news

Flower Valley News

Every organisation reviews its strategy from time to time, to seize new opportunities and prepare for new challenges. Our review over the last year has been a great team-building exercise – and has led us to our new vision statement:

A Fynbos-Filled Future for Life and Livelihoods

I love it. It’s so simple, yet captures the many layers of our work. For me, it’s especially important in that it highlights the role of people in Fynbos. All our work takes place through a people-centred approach: of learning, demonstration and collaboration.

To focus on collaboration:  we partner with harvesters, landowners, suppliers, retailers, parents, children, government – and so many more. Together we bring about positive change. I want to thank all these partners for the teamwork and successes we have enjoyed together this year.

And I also want to thank the many funders who have over the years been partners too. 
It’s all those companies, organisations, philanthropic individuals and Trusts who invest in this vision: in Fynbos landscapes and Fynbos livelihoods.

It’s clear South Africa’s economy is in a difficult place right now. We can see the effects of this in both the conservation and agricultural sectors. This makes it all the more important to ensure our work offers a good return on investment. And it does! So thank you for your support. We’ll continue to provide those returns: safeguarding ecosystems, securing livelihoods and nurturing young children.

One final thought: It feels really good to give a green gift on festive occasions. What about a green gift from Flower Valley Farm – adopting a hectare of Fynbos and forests for a year for a family member or friend? Please support this cause. Here’s how.

May you have a wonderful festive season. We look forward to your continued support and partnership next year.

Get our latest news here.

Kind regards,

Lesley

Flower Valley’s 2017-18 annual report available

The Flower Valley Conservation Trust’s annual report for 2017 – 2018 is now available. And for Executive Director, Lesley Richardson, Flower Valley has (and continues to) focus on better lives, protected natural landscapes and greater sustainability. These are all things the funders of today want to see. And that’s how the Trust invests in the future. The full report is available here.

 

 

 

Early childhood support grows in Masakhane – thanks to partnerships

The Good Hope Early Childhood Development Centre in Masakhane is now able to accommodate an additional 60 children.

The centre, which serves children from birth to 5 years of age, has been extended with an additional site operating since October.

The existing site already cares for 40 children. The centre has also now opened its doors at the old primary school in Masakhane.

The centre forms part of the Flower Valley Early Childhood Development Programme. According to the programme’s manager, Gabbi Jonker, the growth is thanks to the strong partnerships that have formed around the centre.

 

How it all started

Flower Valley Conservation Trust has supported and worked in partnership with the Good Hope ECD Centre since 2014. This initial work came through Flower Valley’s partnership with the Western Cape Department of Social Development. Important ground work was initiated through collaboration with the Overstrand Municipality and Masakhane parents and residents, and Good Hope staff.

Partnerships continued to grow to include initial infrastructure input (from Gamko Services), and resource support and monitoring of qualification training, thanks to Enlighten Education Trust and the Nicolette Botha-Guthrie Trust Fund. Boland College also supported teacher qualification training.

Gabbi says in the past 18 months, partnerships have grown substantially. Thanks to the Grootbos Foundation, children have a wonderful new outdoor play area at the new site. The Grootbos Foundation and the Overstrand Municipality joined hands in the renovation of the new site. Grootbos Foundation has also accessed funding to provide seed capital to co-finance a large percentage of salaries. At the same time, Aquinion brought their Payroll expertise to the centre, and also assist with human resource activities.

 

A vibrant and heartfelt atmosphere

The governing body of the Good Hope ECD Centre now consists of strong representatives of multiple stakeholders. This diversity of skills, knowledge, expertise and care provides a solid basis on which to work towards sustainable service delivery for the children of the Good Hope ECD Centre.

Flower Valley currently supports the Good Hope Centre in all aspects of administration, management, governance, registration, learning programme and teacher training, staff and partnership development, and supporting environmental education in the curriculum. Gabbi says that thanks to the valuable partners, this work takes place in an atmosphere that is vibrant and heartfelt, reflecting a common purpose of equal access to good quality early childhood developmental opportunities.

“It takes many committed persons, government and non-profit organisations to stand together to create a better world. Only together can we support life-affirming environments for our young children and in so doing for our society as a whole. Thank you all for joining hearts and hands in this wonderful initiative.”

For more information please contact: Gabbi Jonker: gabbi@flowervalley.co.za

 

The wild Fynbos industry: Understanding the good and the not so good

The demand for Fynbos has rocketed in recent years, with exports doubling since 2012. Fynbos is also now seen as an elite product – especially in the overseas markets.

A recent study into the wild fynbos sector looked at the scale, structure and sustainability of the wild fynbos harvesting supply chain. The results of the study, funded by the Table Mountain Fund (an associated Trust of WWF South Africa) and undertaken by Coventry University and Flower Valley Conservation Trust, were released at a launch event held outside Botriver in November.

According to Dr David Bek, lead researcher, “This used to be a cottage industry. But if you look at the improvements in terms of employment and upgrading, that’s not the case anymore. The entrepreneurs of the industry have done well. And through bouquet-making, we’re capturing the value in South Africa.”

However, the growth of the industry has put some pressure on the resource.

The study found that the range of species being harvested has declined from 300, to around 150. Most harvesting takes place in the Overberg.

“Silver Brunia, in particular, is critical to the financial survival of many harvesting businesses,” Dr Bek said. The prices of Silver Brunia have increased more than 600% in a decade. “This has led to pressure on stocks and has also led to poaching.”

 

Understanding the nature of employment

Kathy O’Grady, Flower Valley’s Ethical Trade Coordinator, said the harvesting industry employs around 2000 people. An additional 1400 people receive direct employment through packsheds, where bouquets are made.

She said, “Increased formalisation and upskilling in the industry has led to better paid permanent jobs.” However, the study found examples in which harvesters earn about 4.5 percent of the final value of the product. And prices paid to harvesters for greens (excluding Silver Brunia) have increased very little in the last decade.

Despite this, there have been marked increases in expenses for contractors, such as fuel, maintenance and wages.

Wages vary – with some harvesting earning “a good living”, well in excess of the minimum wage, the report found. But some people “have more precarious work and may often earn below the minimum wage”.

 

The study highlighted some of the key concerns:

  • Invasive alien plants: Dr Bek said, “Some people we interviewed said that in 20 to 30 years’ time, all the land will be covered in aliens.”
  • Unsustainable harvesting – and in particular, different views on what is sustainable.
  • Poaching and fire.
  • Assurance does not cover the entire industry – but key segments of the market are increasingly expecting it.

 

The report has recommended three areas of focus for the industry:

  1. To promote greater industry cohesion, so that Fynbos can have a voice on bigger platforms.
  2. To improve data availability and accuracy.
  3. To ensure steps are taken for the industry to be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

 

The research project grew from the need to better understand the industry, in terms of its economic impact, as well as social and environmental impacts.

The Table Mountain Fund provided the funding for the study, which was overseen by Cape Flora SA, the Fynbos industry body.

 

To read the abbreviated report – click here.

To read the full report – click here.