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.
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.
The Flower Valley team travelled to a chilly London in December – to bring partners in ethical trade and sustainable production together.
The workshop, held on 1 December at the Royal Geographical Society, was co-hosted with the Universities of Newcastle and Durham. The aim was to share best practice in sustainable production, looking at the supply chains that provide products to retailers.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust represented those suppliers and packsheds who are picking fynbos as members of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. Other industries represented included the cocoa industry and the garment sector.
More than compliance
According to speakers at the event, it’s vital to look beyond compliance, but to rather understand how acting ethically is benefiting workers and the environment. Dionne Harrison of Impactt Ltd said, “Compliance is important, but more important is the impact. Has it made a difference to anybody?” It’s therefore important to measure the impact on the ground.
Professor Stephanie Barrientos of the University of Manchester said that acting ethically is more than ticking off a checklist. “It’s not just about compliance and better conditions, but also about smallholders and people making a decent living out of what they do.”
She said workers and suppliers earning a decent living will be encouraged to remain in a sector, and not leave for better opportunities. This in turn will ensure key skills are not lost.
Business depends on biodiversity
The keynote address was delivered by the CEO of Fauna & Flora International (Flower Valley’s founding partner), Mark Rose, who said business is underpinned by biodiversity.
“All business depends in some way on ecosystem services, such as clean air and water and healthy soils. As biodiversity declines, so does the health of an ecosystem and its ability to provide businesses with the goods and services they depend on.”
Lesley Richardson and Kathy O’Grady of Flower Valley spoke of the successes and challenges in the fynbos industry. Fynbos landscapes are threatened in some cases by poor land management, including invasive vegetation. Through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, Flower Valley works with partners across the fynbos supply chain, to encourage ethical actions. The Programme is supported by the European Union and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.
The Sustainable Harvesting Programme has a new team member. Kirsten Retief joins the team as the Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator. She will meet with landowners and harvesters, providing support to meet environmental best practice principles in the fynbos sector.
Kirsten previously worked for the Endangered Wildlife Trust, working within the Wildlife and Energy Programme, based at Strandfontein on the West Coast. Her role here included monitoring the impacts of wind turbines on bird and bat populations.
Prior to this, she worked as a Research Assistant at the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). In collaboration with the University of Cape Town, Kirsten worked with Dr Adam West and Michele Pfab on forensic methods to curb cycad poaching. South Africa is well known for its cycad diversity. But cycad poaching from the wild is rife in the country.
She graduated in Zoology and Ecology from UCT, and then completed her Honours in Botany and her Masters in Conservation Biology. The Masters degree at UCT is a course for which only 14 students are selected globally.
Throughout her career, Kirsten has been inspired by fynbos heavyweights like Prof Timm Hoffman, Prof William Bond, Prof Jeremy Midgley, and more…
Kirsten says she is excited about joining the Flower Valley team, and is looking forward to the challenge. She will be based at the Bredasdorp office, although her role will ensure she covers much of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Landowners and municipalities are now required to have a plan to control invasive species on their properties, and have an obligation to remove these species.
New National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) regulations came into force on 1 October 2016. According to the new laws, invasive species are now considered a legal liability to property owners.
The new regulations also states that property sellers must inform potential buyers of invasive species that are found on the property, thereby encouraging estate agents to play a role in encouraging the sale of properties that are clear of invasive species.
An updated invasive species list was also published, replacing older lists. The new list categorises 379 invasive terrestial and fresh water plant species, and a further 4 invasive marine plant species. The species are categorised as Category 1a, 1b, 2 or 3 species.
Flower Valley has coordinated the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme over the past three years, working with government, landowners and project participants to clear invasive species on around 30,000 hectares a year.
The programme forms part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Land User Incentive Scheme. While the Department provided the funding for the clearing work and the transport, land users and other stakeholders involved provided co-funding commitments and ensured the programme was rolled out successfully.
The programme ended during 2016. Negotiations are ongoing with the Department for the next three year cycle. Annual clearing plans have been developed with landowners and other stakeholders for the next three years, prioritising biodiversity-rich areas that require follow-up clearing work. It’s hoped clearing operations will start within the coming weeks.
Not everyone will be able to visit the fynbos sanctuary of Flower Valley Farm. And see all the action – both in the fynbos and the forest. So as part of our feedback to those who have adopted a hectare on the farm, we’ll bring pockets of the farm into your home instead.
Here’s a brief update on some of Flower Valley Farm’s surprises – and of course the beauty of our fynbos.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust will join researchers and others involved in fynbos at the Fynbos Forum in July.
The Trust will present on the threats to fynbos landscapes and livelihoods created as many in the industry struggle to meet requirements set out in legislation and regulations.
Flower Valley will present an internal environmental and social management system, which provides support to these small-scale suppliers. This system is a step-up approach, facilitating a robust monitoring, support and reporting system.
The Flower Valley team will also join the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association in hosting a workshop on invasive alien clearing. The workshop will debate the lack of a holistic approach to monitoring actual clearing performances on private land, and measuring the impact thereof.
The workshop will address questions such as: are we really impacting the landscape? And is the money we’re spending being used wisely? What’s more, are we tracking our success and failures, to inform future clearing strategies on private land?
The Fynbos Forum takes place in Port Elizabeth from 25-28 July. The theme this year is, Survivor: Fynbos. It’s the 38th Fynbos Forum.
Flower Valley is looking for a Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT) is a registered Public Benefit Organisation, based on Flower Valley Farm, outside Gansbaai in the Overstrand. The Trust promotes the responsible harvesting of fynbos through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP).
The first known isiXhosa fynbos field guide was launched on Friday 20 May at Kirstenbosch. The guide is aimed at supporting fynbos pickers to know which fynbos species can be picked in the veld, and how to pick responsibly. It is the work of a partnership between Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the Universities of Durham and Newcastle.
The launch of the guide, called the Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting, was attended by the likes of CapeNature, WWF-South Africa, retailers, municipalities and tertiary institutions. The guide, a series of videos and a field assessment tool – all developed through the partnership – will be used to support Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme.
According to WWF-SA CEO, Dr Morné du Plessis at the launch, South Africa is a biodiversity superpower. “South Africa is in the top 10 biodiversity-rich countries in the world. We’ve got to turn that into an opportunity for ourselves.” A third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product is fundamentally dependent on the environment. He said much of WWF’s work takes place through partners like the Flower Valley Conservation Trust.
Co-author of the field guide, Gerhard van Deventer, said the guide describes 41 fynbos species that are harvested on the Agulhas Plain. “The booklet will come in handy if you’re in the veld, and are wondering if you’re allowed to pick a specie.” The guide is available in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. It’s aimed at harvesters, landowners, tertiary institutions and others.
Flower Valley’s Mntambo Nakwa, who supported the translation of the guide into isiXhosa, said translating fynbos-related words into isiXhosa proved a challenge. “Some words simply can’t be translated directly, and need an explanation.” He said in Xhosa, there are no words for flower parts like the bract and petal. “In Xhosa there is one word for the flower: Igqabi – which means flower.”
The guide and other tools will be handed out to harvesters and landowners who are members of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. This progamme coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, is an assurance programme, providing retailers with the assurance that fynbos is not being picked irresponsibly, and social and labour compliance is being met.
Fynbos was the star feature at the Europe Day celebrations, held in Pretoria on Monday 9 May.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust promoted sustainably-harvested fynbos at the event. The celebrations were attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana and ambassadorial heads based in Pretoria.
Two fynbos harvesters, Sylvia Ndoda and Hannelien October met with delegates on Monday. Along with Flower Valley’s Kathy O’Grady, they showcased fynbos that is picked with care – thereby protecting both the landscape and livelihoods. The harvesters also showed attendees how to make a fynbos bouquet.
Europe Day is celebrated across the world. It marks the anniversary of the Schuman declaration – and marks a day of unity and peace in Europe.
The European Union has partnered Flower Valley Conservation Trust through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, and is supporting the rollout of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme across the Cape Floral Kingdom.