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.


Fynbos foodie options and their medicinal benefits

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.

So here are some of the menu options presented earlier this year at a Fynbos Fusion event (hosted by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, Pick n Pay and the Vineyard Hotel).


1. Wild Rosemary-infused Chicken Mayonnaise Filled Ciabatta

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.


See our Sustainable Harvesting Programme for more on info.



Meet Daylene, our SHP field monitor

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.


How much do you love – and know – fynbos?

Do you think that you are an expert in fynbos? Take our fun quiz to see for yourself.


Fynbos is threatened on a daily basis by:

There are MANY threats to fynbos. These include climate change, invasive aliens and over-harvesting.

Do you love fynbos?

Do you think it’s worth protecting?


Brunia drives a fynbos focus


Silver brunia

Silver brunia is helping to focus attention on the Cape Floral Kingdom – and specifically, the need to harvest fynbos sustainably.

In an article featured in the Business Day, the demand for fynbos is highlighted – with fynbos exported to Europe, Asia, Russia and many other global markets. That also shows the importance of sustainably managing the fynbos industry, and supporting research and monitoring to better understand the effects of harvesting fynbos species.

Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme was launched to support responsible action in the fynbos sector. Supported by the WWF-SA Nedbank Green Trust and the European Union, Flower Valley has been working with landowners and harvesters across an area of 75,000 hectares in the Cape Floral Kingdom, encouraging environmental best practice, and social and labour compliance.

To read the full article in Business Day, click here.


Our Sustainable Harvesting Programme is looking for 4 field monitors

Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme

Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme is in need of 4 field monitors. They will assist in using a new monitoring method as well as capturing data in the fynbos veld. These positions are short term (for a 5-month period) and asks to be based in the Gansbaai/Stanford area.


The responsibilities of the positions include:

  1. Assisting veld harvesters to use a new monitoring method and checking that they are following the sustainable harvesting principles.
  2. Recording field assessment data correctly.
  3. Completing independent fynbos assessments and capturing this information on a computer.


Minimum qualifications & experience:

  • Basic computer skills (Word and Google)
  • Matric/Grade 12
  • Valid driver’s license (Code 8/10)
  • Self Motivated
  • Responsible
  • Good physical health
  • Love for nature and working in the outdoors
  • Good people relations


Desired qualifications & experience:

  • Previous work/training with a conservation agency (for example: SANParks, CapeNature, Grootbos-Greenfuture College)
  • Off-roading 4×4 experience
  • Speaking a second language (Afrikaans/IsiXhosa)
  • Knowledge of fynbos/harvesting


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


Deadline: 16 June 2017


Please send your CV, a cover letter, and two contactable references to or fax 028 425 2855.

For more information, contact 028 425 2218 during office hours.

Making fynbos monitoring ‘easy’

fynbos monitoring

Fynbos monitoring

There’s nothing simple about monitoring fynbos populations – like seeing how fynbos harvesting may affect fynbos in an area over time. So the Flower Valley team has teamed up with scientists and students to find ways to more easily see how fynbos changes in the long term.

Fynbos harvesters and teams head out into the veld daily, picking fynbos species that are used in bouquets, and ultimately sold around the world.

While tons of fynbos is exported out of the country every year, scientists have only been able to use expensive and time-consuming methods to see how this impacts on the landscape itself.


Using what we have

Now the Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) team is working with experts, to better use some of the tools we already have.

As a member of the programme, a landowner or harvester is shown how to complete a field assessment on the land. This assessment looks at how well harvesters are complying to environmental standards (as captured in our SHP Code of Best Practice).

Now this field assessment has been reworked to include a monitoring aspect, like including estimates of how abundantly a fynbos species may occur in an area.


Support from Stellenbosch University

The SHP team received help from Conservation Ecology students from Stellenbosch University, under the leadership of Flower Valley Trustee, Rhoda Malgas.

The students helped to test the field methods used in the assessment, to see how practical and easy they were to use.

According to Kirsten Retief, the Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator at Flower Valley, the work so far will make it easier for landowners and harvesters to see changes in their veld over time.


Combining science and practicality

“The methods we develop have got to be easy for anyone to use. But they must still have scientific integrity. The data we collect from these field assessments will be used to spot fynbos trends over time. And to react quickly if the assessments point to any areas of concern,” she said.

The Sustainable Harvesting Programme is Flower Valley’s flagship programme. The programme gives support to landowners and harvesters to meet best practice environmental standards, as well as social and labour standards. The aim is to help the niche fynbos industry become even more attractive as an ethical industry – while ensuring fynbos landscapes are protected.

The programme is funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and the European Union.

Answering tough fynbos questions

fynbos questions

Lea Cohen

Flower Valley is introducing new skills and capacity to answer difficult questions around fynbos use. With the help of a database expert, the team is now able to use internet-based databases, to help analyse trends in fynbos.

We’ve worked with fantastic volunteers, such as Lea Cohen, who shared her knowledge and expertise on open source database management systems with the Sustainable Harvesting Programme.


Experience on 3 continents

Lea has varied experience working and volunteering for a number of conservation NGOs on three continents: North America, South America and Africa. Her impressive tertiary background includes Geography, completed at UCLA, and an MSc in Conservation Biology completed at UCT. She has since specialized in GIS and data management systems.

She introduced the Sustainable Harvesting team to programmes used by international companies to manage large datasets and geospatial information.

This will allow the Sustainable Harvesting team to use information we’re collecting to answer more complex questions concerning fynbos use across the Cape Floristic Region. Watch this space!

Stellenbosch University visits Flower Valley

Stellenbosch University

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.

Oom Alfred’s fynbos legacy

Oom Alfred Swarts

Oom Alfred Swarts

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.