Landowners and harvesters who harvest wild fynbos can now better manage their fynbos populations through a new cellphone application.
The app, called i-Fynbos, collects information on fynbos harvested from the wild, and allows effective monitoring over time. Landowners and harvesters will be able to check that their harvesting is sustainable in the long term.
Around 60% of fynbos used in the bouquet market is harvested from natural landscapes, because it is cheaper than the focal flowers picked in cultivated flower orchards. That amounts to millions of stems that are picked every year and sold. But very little is known about how fynbos landscapes change, due to insufficient monitoring.
Where does harvested fynbos originate?
According to Kirsten Watson, Flower Valley Conservation Trust’s Conservation Manager, “There is a need to know where the harvested fynbos comes from and how it’s harvested.”
She says that monitoring fynbos is difficult, because of the vast landscapes across which harvesting takes place. “Where does one even start to evaluate a property? Where do I go to look at harvested veld?”
The i-Fynbos app provides a solution to landowners. Kirsten says, “The app gives you a landscape view of the property you work on – where you’ve harvested, what you’ve harvested and the quality of the harvesting. This is something we never had before. So it’s to empower suppliers and harvesters to take responsibility for their monitoring.”
It’s downloaded from the Google Playstore to a smartphone – making it accessible to fynbos harvesters.
A citizen science project
She says, “This is as much a monitoring effort as a citizen science project. The i-Fynbos app makes citizen scientists out of harvesters, who are responsible for capturing the data. However, we recommend that all information collected is verified by a third party like Flower Valley Conservation Trust.”
The fynbos app came about through funding support from the Durham University and Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, who have been working in collaboration with Flower Valley Conservation Trust and its Sustainable Harvesting Programme since 2010. The Sustainable Harvesting Programme works with harvesters and suppliers to pick fynbos responsibly, and to meet social and labour compliance.
During the following six months, the app will be tested by teams of harvesters. After this, the app could be made available to other harvesting sectors, such as the honeybush industry and the medicinal plants sector.