A new study has highlighted the importance of Silver Brunia (Brunia laevis) as an economic driver for fynbos harvesters. And the potential threats this could hold for the species – and for fynbos pickers.
The study, undertaken by Matthew Fainman and Prof Beatrice Conradie at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town asked the question: “Wild-harvesting fynbos flowers: Still a viable business?”
According to Matthew, at a Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) stakeholder engagement session held on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, “Brunia made up 6% of the flowers harvested, but 10 to 30% of the team’s revenue. So we asked the question: Can a harvesting team still be profitable without Brunia?”
The data for the research was based on Flower Valley’s harvesting team between 2008 and 2015. Keep in mind that these results are from a single case study, and represents a typical model for small scale harvesters, but other business models do exist within the wild flower industry.
Fynbos prices stagnated and even declined
The research found that prices for Brunia rose from R1 to R1.80 per stem over that time. But real prices (prices adjusted for inflation) for other species either stagnated or declined over this time. “For the Flower Valley team, it became clear that Brunia laevis is how the team made a profit,” he said.
The fynbos stems are picked by harvesters, arranged into bouquets at pack sheds, and are then sold by retailers in South Africa and in the United Kingdom.
The research concludes that this trend “could lead to overharvesting of valuable species as independent harvesting teams scramble to maintain their revenues”. Matthew added that, “The low prices paid to harvesters in turn result in low prices paid to landowners. This weakens the economic incentive for landowners to conserve fynbos.”
The threats of broadcast sowing
This could lead to more broadcast sowing – a practice whereby a landowner spreads fynbos seeds in natural landscapes. Often these species, however, don’t naturally occur on these landscapes, and they in turn could provide environmental threats to locally endemic species.
According to Flower Valley’s Programme Manager for Natural Resource Management, Kirsten Watson at the SHP meeting, there’s a need to investigate the environmental sustainability of Brunia laevis as a priority. There’s also a need to explore economic diversification options for small-scale harvesters, such as alien clearing, fire wood or other fynbos products.
Honeybush: Barriers to small-scale production
In another research project discussed at the SHP meeting, Stellenbosch University’s Rhoda Malgas looked at why a specific community with a long history of honeybush harvesting is not pursuing honeybush production today.
Despite the opportunities in honeybush production (an industry identified in the development of the Green Economy), the old mission station of Genadendal in the Overberg has highlighted numerous limitations to pursuing this industry. These include a perceived lack of experience, knowledge and interest, difficulty in securing labour, theft, no irrigation and limited access to land.
Rhoda says, “It became clear that many issues lie in the governance side – and not so much on the biophysical side.”
Ways to overcome these barriers
Rhoda suggests in order to overcome many of these perceived limitations, more extension officers are required with agroecological training. “We also need transgenerational knowledge exchange between youth and elders. We need specialised short courses for land-users. And we need to document and maintain local ecological knowledge as a means to conserve wild and agricultural resources.”
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: email@example.com with the details (including the location).
And even though the SANBI-funded project ended in March 2019, residents of the Agulhas Plain are still asked to get involved: To contact Flower Valley Conservation Trust if you come across any of these three species.
(This way we can ensure they’re removed in the next funding cycle).
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.
While this project may have completed, we are still keeping an eye out for emerging invasive species, and by working with partners, are looking to remove them before they become a problem.
If you see these 3 invaders (or another you’re concerned about), contact Stanley Engel. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (preferably include your photos of the plant).
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 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.
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.
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.
What’s South Africa’s national flower?
Protea cynaroides, better known as the King Protea.
Which bird can only survive in fynbos – and will die out without it?
The Sugarbird is dependent on fynbos and feeds mainly off Proteas.
What flower is in Flower Valley’s logo?
We have a Pincushion in our logo
What fynbos species is only found on Flower Valley Farm and surrounds, and nowhere else in the world?
The critically endangered Erica irregularis is a special species to us, growing only on our farm and surrounds.
How many species grow in the Cape Floral Kingdom?
Our Kingdom has around 9600 different species - making it the most diverse kingdom in the world, isn’t that great?
Fynbos loves fire – true or false?
Fynbos and fire work hand in hand and must happen in a controlled manner every 12 years or so to achieve the best results of fynbos regrowth.
What fynbos family has more than 6000 species, and includes plants like the irregularis and plukenetti?
The Erica family has more than 6000 species.
How much do you love – and know – fynbos?
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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.
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:
Assisting veld harvesters to use a new monitoring method and checking that they are following the sustainable harvesting principles.
Recording field assessment data correctly.
Completing independent fynbos assessments and capturing this information on a computer.
Minimum qualifications & experience:
Basic computer skills (Word and Google)
Valid driver’s license (Code 8/10)
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 email@example.com or fax 028 425 2855.
For more information, contact 028 425 2218 during office hours.
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.
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.