A new study in the fynbos industry is aiming to better understand the scale and structure of fynbos harvesting in the wild, including its ethical compliance with environmental, social and economic legislation and best practice.
The study is being driven by Cape Flora South Africa, with Flower Valley Conservation Trust implementing the activities. Funding has been provided by the Table Mountain Fund, an associated Trust of WWF-South Africa.
While the fynbos industry is more than 100 years old, still not much is known today about where harvesting takes place across the wild fynbos landscape, as well as the characteristics of the industry. As such, it has been difficult for the industry body, Cape Flora SA, to provide marketing and other support to wild harvesters.
The study aims to address these gaps in knowledge, including by shedding light on local fynbos supply chains. From this, key marketing information will be integrated into Cape Flora’s marketing strategy to help the wild industry.
It’s also hoped the study will provide more information on the ethical practices employed across the industry. While cost pressures have risen over the years, the price of wild fynbos stems has in general remained relatively stable. This could force harvesters to pick higher yields of fynbos in order to remain viable. Social and environmental compliance could also be impacted as a result.
Information from the study could therefore identify current challenges and opportunities in wild fynbos harvesting. This information could then be used by the industry to pro-actively engage with conservation authorities.
Flower Valley drives an assurance programme, known as the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, which helps landowners and fynbos suppliers ultimately meet environmental best practice standards, as well as social and labour compliance.
With the help of consultants, the Flower Valley team is now interviewing key players in the industry. All information from the study is being treated confidentially.
A first-of-its-kind Fynbos Field Guide will be launched as part of the International Day of Biodiversity celebrations. Flower Valley Conservation Trust, in collaboration with the Universities of Durham and Newcastle, compiled the guide, which will help harvesters to pick fynbos with care, and to identify fynbos species in the veld.
The launch of the guide, called the Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting, takes place on 20 May in Cape Town to coincide with the world celebration of International Day of Biodiversity on Sunday, 22 May.
The Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting – available in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa – helps fynbos harvesters to understand the need to care for fynbos resources. The guide includes 41 fynbos species found on the Agulhas Plain and beyond which are picked for markets – many of which are listed as endangered on the Red List of South African Plants.
The guide also provides the Vulnerability Index listing of species. This index is based on biological criteria, and gives a guideline as to how the long-term population of each species may be impacted by harvesting.
Other tools to support sustainable fynbos harvesting will also be introduced at the event. Fynbos harvesting training videos, also available in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa will be showcased. The videos are used in training fynbos harvesters to carefully manage the fynbos they work in.
A field assessment tool has also been developed, which allows land users to gauge at what level they are caring for their fynbos resources, and how they can potentially improve.
These tools are in support of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP), driven by Flower Valley Conservation Trust across the fynbos industry. The SHP serves as an assurance programme, offering fynbos suppliers and landowners support to enter on a journey towards full sustainability. The programme aims to provide assurance to retailers, and ultimately consumers, that the fynbos bouquets they buy are not harming the natural veld, while social and labour compliance is met. The Programme is supported by the European Union and the WWF-SA Nedbank Green Trust.
Twenty fynbos harvesters and invasive alien clearers have been selected to become fynbos champions. The champions then attended a Champion Training Week in November.
The champions were selected from members of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) and from invasive alien clearing teams in the Overberg, with the aim to upskill them to promote sustainability in fynbos. Following the training, the champions would be in a position to become the point-person in their team on matters related to the SHP, social and labour standards, and research- and monitoring-related questions.
The Champion Training Week, part of the Field Monitor Project, took place at Fynbos Retreat just outside Gansbaai. It was led by Flower Valley’s Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator Bronwyn Botha and Ethical Trade Coordinator Kathy O’Grady. The Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme) provided funding for the week.
Fynbos pickers and alien clearers covered topics such as the introduction to fynbos and its ecology, understanding the SHP, an introduction to research and monitoring and how to use field forms and research equipment.
The Champion Training Week was the first of its kind offered by Flower Valley. For many of the attendees, it was also their first step in understanding sustainability and being in a position to share the message with their peers.
The Sustainable Harvesting Programme highlights capacity building among harvesters and landowners as an essential tool to encourage greater environmental awareness and better understand social and labour best practice principles. Around 160 harvesters have received training to date across the Cape Floral Kingdom.
While the SHP initially focused on the Agulhas Plain, with support from the European Union and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, the programme is now being rolled out to three more main harvesting areas within the Kingdom.
Not that much is known about the impacts of harvesting on wild fynbos over the long term. In order to address this challenge, Flower Valley Conservation Trust has set up a Research Working Group to play a key role in answering fynbos-related questions, and to help focus research efforts.
While research over the years has provided some short-term answers on the thresholds of harvesting, more work is needed to better understand how individual species are affected by picking.
Research undertaken over a six-year period and published in 2012 by botanist Sean Privett (supported by CapeNature and Stellenbosch University) took the first steps in answering these questions. The study, undertaken in the Agulhas Plain, found that resprouters such as Silver Brunia (Brunia laevis) and Altydbossie (Staavia radiata) have a high mortality when the whole plant is harvested. Other species such as Ker-ker (Erica imbricata) can also die if 100 percent harvesting takes place.
While this study was the first to provide guidance on the impacts of harvesting on specific species, it emphasised the importance of further research. Researchers also suggest that species in different areas may react differently to harvesting.
To help better understand this and other important fynbos-related questions, the Research Working Group was set up. Researchers from tertiary institutions and others from the fynbos industry have been invited to stand on this Working Group.
According to Bronwyn Botha, Flower Valley’s Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator, the group’s activities will help strengthen the Sustainable Harvesting Programme’s research and monitoring activities. It will also therefore assist to support sustainable practices throughout the fynbos industry.
She said, “As research and monitoring proceeds within the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, more and more research needs are being identified. These needs are then captured on a research agenda, which – with the help of our Working Group members – then guide the research efforts.”
The Working Group is also responsible for the accurate interpretation of research findings. These findings can then be used to help guide policies implemented by conservation authorities.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust’s harvesting team has been given the opportunity to become an independent contracting team. This opportunity fits Flower Valley’s empowerment objectives, to encourage and facilitate small businesses in the fynbos industry.
The Trust’s picking team has harvested fynbos responsibly on Flower Valley Farm and surrounds after the Trust was launched in 1999. The team is a member of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, picking fynbos according to strict criteria.
With the new opportunity, the team will operate as a micro business, with full support from the Trust. Markets are in place to receive the sustainably harvested fynbos product. As such, the team will remain key players in the Sustainable Harvesting Programme.
According to Lesley Richardson, Flower Valley’s Executive Director, the new developments achieve a number of objectives. “We really believe the exciting move offers great benefits to the harvesting team, who will receive support from the Trust and from a mentor all through this journey. As a Trust, we believe in supporting small businesses in the fynbos industry – and this is a wonderful and empowering way to support such a business.”
Flower Valley team members presented the Sustainable Harvesting Programme at the Fynbos Forum on Tuesday, 4 August. The Forum for 2015 is themed: Biome Boundaries, and sets out to understand how biome boundaries function. The Forum serves as a meeting point for researchers, planners, managers and other involved in conserving Fynbos ecosystems.
Conservation Director, Roger Bailey, and Conservation Extension & Applied Research Coordinator, Bronwyn Botha, presented the Programme. The talk was titled: Sustainable Harvesting of Wild Fynbos – Developing an Assurance Programme. It provided detail on the Sustainable Harvesting Programme’s journey to further meet market demands, by providing assurance that environmental and labour standards are being met within the wild fynbos harvesting sector.
The Programme will now host a fynbos industry engagement workshop later in August. This workshop will bring all major players in the wild fynbos sector, including representatives from industry body Cape Flora SA and from the region’s conservation authority CapeNature, together. The group will discuss ethical trade in the flower industry, and the review process the Sustainable Harvesting Programme is now undertaking.
To find out more about the workshop, contact Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme team. Email: email@example.com.
A new guide to empower fynbos harvesters to know the species they are picking for the market is currently being published. The Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting specifically focuses on species found and picked on the Agulhas Plain – a biodiversity hotspot, which includes vast fynbos areas recently included as a Unesco World Heritage site.
The guide has been compiled by Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the Universities of Newcastle and Durham in the United Kingdom. It lists 41 of the most commonly-picked species on the Plain, and lists their characteristics, geographical range, and conservation status. The guide is also being translated into Afrikaans and Xhosa.
According to Dr Dave Bek, Research Associate at Newcastle University, and co-author of the guide, it’s vital that harvesters are empowered to know the veld they own or work in.
“While fynbos field guides are readily available, they usually don’t focus on those species we’re actively picking for the market. They are also not generally aimed at actual harvesters and landowners – probably the most important custodians of our fynbos heritage.”
The guide also includes information on some of the threats to fynbos, including invasive alien plants and the loss of natural habitat, and provides support for sustainable harvesting practices.
Roger Bailey, Conservation Director at Flower Valley Conservation Trust said, “We see this guide as a tool to encourage and facilitate good harvesting practices, as set out in the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. There are many things we can do when picking fynbos. Many of these are small things, but they can make a big difference in protecting fynbos while providing sustainable livelihoods.”
The 41 species included in the guide are colour-coded according to their conservation status, as per the Red Data List. They also include details on their Vulnerability Index scores, an index developed under the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. The Vulnerability Index provides a guideline as to the impact, or lack thereof, of harvesting on fynbos populations over the long-term.
Dr Bek says, “We’re excited about the Field Guide. Of course we want to be sure that harvesters operating on the Agulhas Plain can benefit from this. But the guide will be just as relevant to secondary and tertiary institutions looking to provide information on fynbos harvesting and fynbos species found on the Plain and beyond. Its translation into all three languages of the Western Cape – Afrikaans, isi-Xhosa and English – will also ensure its use by a diverse range of harvesters and institutions.”
Around 160 fynbos harvesters across the Cape Floral Kingdom will receive training in picking fynbos responsibly, as part of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP). The training takes place over the next 2 months with signed members of the programme.
The SHP is driven by Flower Valley Conservation Trust. It encourages and facilitates fynbos suppliers and harvesting teams to harvest fynbos responsibly, and promotes adherence to social and labour best practice principles. Through the programme, retailers are also encouraged to buy fynbos that has been ethically harvested.
The training for the harvesters is offered by Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting team, Bronwyn Botha and Kathy O’Grady. In-field fynbos harvesting training provides harvesters with new skills including proper cutting techniques and good harvesting principles. Social and labour training for harvesters will focus on fair labour practices in the workplace. The training will be based on the SIZA VISA DVD, which aims to raise awareness around the SIZA Standard, Health and Safety and other rights and responsibilities in the workplace.
While fynbos harvesters that are part of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme on the Agulhas Plain have received SHP training in the past, this is the first time that harvesters outside the Plain will also be reached. The programme was developed and initially tested on the Plain. However, support secured from the European Union and the WWF-Nedbank Green Trust have allowed the programme to be rolled out across the Cape Floral Kingdom, with emphasis on three new harvesting areas.
At the same time, support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (implemented by the United Nations Development Programme) has allowed the Trust to also provide new capacity to fynbos harvesters and invasive alien clearers. Nearly 40 individuals received training as field monitors through the Small Grants Programme. Most recent training focused on field assessment methodologies, where plants were sampled making use of specific equipment. Toolboxes containing handheld GPS’s, digital cameras and other equipment have also been compiled and made available for ongoing in-field research.
Sustainability is at the core of this year’s World Environment Day. Celebrated across the world on Friday 5 June, 2015’s slogan is ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.’
The day is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It aims to raise awareness to encourage global action to protect the environment. According to UNEP, if our current consumption and production patterns continue at the current pace, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption by 2050.
Encouraging sustainability within the fynbos industry is Flower Valley’s mantra. Through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, the Trust works with players in the fynbos industry to support sustainable practices – through veld assessments, training, a Code of Best Practice and other tools.
The Programme has a number of trusted members who have adopted the toolkit in their harvesting practices. Through donor support from the European Union and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, the Programme’s toolkit is being bedded down. At the same time, the Programme is being introduced to new picking areas in the Cape Floral Kingdom – beyond the Agulhas Plain, where it was first piloted.
So to the Sustainable Harvesting Programme members, and to all Flower Valley partners and friends, Happy World Environment Day.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust hosted the Presenter Search on 3 team in April – including presenter-hopeful Nambitha Ben-Mazwi, and judge Phat Joe. The show was featured on Friday 1 May, on SABC3. Through the reality show, three winners will be chosen. They will join the Top Billing and Expresso Morning Show teams, as well as a new show on SABC3.
Nambitha, as one of the top 10 finalists, joined Flower Valley’s Conservation Extension and Applied Research Coordinator, Bronwyn Botha, on Flower Valley Farm. Nambitha was shown how to pick fynbos responsibly, enduring some of Flower Valley’s tough mountainous terrain.