Around 14.5 million stems of fynbos were picked from the wild fynbos landscapes of the Cape Floral Kingdom, and exported around the world last year alone. And each year that number grows.
The fynbos industry is also not small in terms of employment: Cape Flora SA estimates that fynbos provides a livelihood to around 20,000 people – many of these women from marginalised communities.
So the work to ensure fynbos stems are picked sustainably – to benefit the landscape, and those who depend on fynbos, is vital.
It’s a question that retailers are increasingly raising too – to prove to their consumers that fynbos is being ethically sourced.
The Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme is the only programme of its kind – providing assurance of good environmental, social and labour practice to the fynbos industry.
It’s a programme that has developed – and changed lives – over the past 15 years – thanks to the many partners on this journey.
For the past four years, the European Union and the WWF-Nedbank Green Trust have supported the sustainable picking of fynbos, through the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP). And along this journey, Flower Valley has provided support to this sector to showcase its ethical products to retailers.
The support from these donors helped the SHP grow its membership base to 28 – including harvesting teams, landowners and packsheds. This support now covers an area of 75,000 hectares across the Cape Floral Kingdom where wild harvesting takes place.
The SHP team developed a set of tools to measure compliance of members participating in the programme.
This includes an integrated Internal Management System for exporters and distributors of wild fynbos. This system is implemented among small-scale suppliers of fynbos – supporting these suppliers to enter on a journey of continuous improvement, and to measure their improvements over time.
A Field Guide for Wild Flower Harvesting was developed in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, as well as a pocket field guide – when the SHP teamed up with the University of Durham and Newcastle.
Training has been provided to 200 harvesters, making use of a set of DVDs that help explain the SHP to harvesters, and ways to meet environmental, and social and labour best practice standards.
Research and monitoring has also been emphasised over the past four years. A rapid resource base assessment has been developed, which serves as a verification of harvesting practices and provides monitoring over the long-term.
The SHP team has worked closely with researchers and tertiary institutions over the period, convening a Research Working Group and developing a research agenda – which we now use as a base to work with research students.
An online Natural Resource Management database today serves as a platform for efficient storage of key harvesting information and other profiles. This allows stakeholders to easily track member progress – and will become a tool that landowners can use to implement good land management on their properties.
And information collected via field monitors is entered into this database, which over time will highlight harvesting trends, and guide best practice.
It’s been a partnership that has changed the face of sustainable fynbos harvesting – allowing for more supportive tools, increased support and even stronger relationships. From Flower Valley Conservation Trust, a huge thank you to the EU and to the WWF-Nedbank Green Trust for joining us on this journey.