For 17 years, Lesley Richardson has guided and led Flower Valley Conservation Trust as the Trust’s Executive Director, and in the past two years, as Fundraising and Partnership Development Manager. Now Lesley has decided to ‘move along’ from Flower Valley – to focus her attention on the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI).
Lesley took over as Executive Director at Flower Valley in September 2003. At the time, she joined the Trust following an eight-year stint at WWF South Africa, including as Director of Communications and Marketing.
By 2003, Flower Valley Conservation Trust had focused its work on Flower Valley Farm, the home of the Trust.
But an opportunity early during Les’s career at Flower Valley put the Trust on a different trajectory – connecting with some of the biggest conservation players in the Overberg and beyond.
At the time, the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility provided resources for conservation in the Agulhas Plain. Flower Valley was tasked with developing one of the four outputs of the region-wide project: Ecologically, socially and economically sustainable harvesting of wild fynbos is demonstrated as a viable land-use on the Agulhas Plain.
This served as the basis of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme – which became the Trust’s flagship programme in subsequent years.
From the outset, Flower Valley also focused on Early Childhood Development. And Lesley’s support to this programme culminated in the Overstrand Mayor’s Award for Excellence in 2014. According to Overstrand Municipality Area Manager Kat Myburgh and Gabrielle Jonker, who nominated Lesley for the award, “Lesley is a hands-on, tender, kind, honest and respectful person. Her professionalism is an example to all who work with her. She is a mentor and inspiration to many, both young and old.”
In 2010, when the first phase of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative concluded, Flower Valley, led by Lesley, ensured this landscape initiative could continue. Between 2003 and 2010, relationships of trust and cooperation had built up between ABI’s partners, which supported conservation efforts in the Agulhas Plain.
At the launch meeting for phase 2 of ABI in 2010, partners agreed that Flower Valley serve as the ABI Coordination Unit and the Secretariat, and that ABI would now operate across the Overberg. Through Lesley’s drive, many of these relationships have been maintained over the following decade, and new relationships have also formed under the ABI banner.
Lesley and the ABI partners are now driving the process to re-vision ABI – to further consolidate the ABI partnership through a new round of shared thinking, clarifying goals and practical plans (in a project funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust).
In 2012, Flower Valley launched a landscape alien clearing project (also under the ABI banner). The Trust worked with around 250 beneficiaries, and 100 landowners in the Agulhas Plain, through funding secured via the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. Around 30,000 hectares were cleared per year through the project, which continues today. This programme address the threats which were identified by the ABI partnership.
Also under Les’s direction, the Trust revamped the Sustainable Harvesting Programme from 2014, with funding support from the European Union and WWF Nedbank Green Trust. This saw the SHP entrenched in the Agulhas Plain, and rolled out to new harvesting areas – supporting pickers to harvest fynbos according to environmental principles, and to meet social and labour compliance in harvesting teams. The SHP is the only programme of its kind in the fynbos industry.
Throughout her Flower Valley career, Lesley has served on numerous boards, including as Vice-Chair of the Cape Action for People and the Environment (CAPE) Implementation Committee and as Trustee and Chair of the Southern African Wildlife College Trust. She has also served on the board of Cape Flora SA (the fynbos industry body) and serves on the board of the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust.
According to Flower Valley’s Executive Director, Roger Bailey, Lesley has played a transformational role in the Agulhas Plain – particularly in the fynbos sector and the ECD environment. “I’m not sure how one summarises 17 years of hard work and dedication in a few short sentences. Lesley has not only been at the forefront of conservation in the Agulhas Plain and the broader Overberg – showing courage in implementing programmes and ideas well ahead of their time. But she has also played a key role in my own career. She has provided guidance and support throughout, and took on her role as Executive Director by adopting a consultative and facilitative approach.”
“She will be sorely missed at Flower Valley Conservation Trust. Best wishes to you, Les, on your next chapter and may this be filled with plenty of interesting and thought-provoking fynbos aspects.”
Flower Valley Conservation Trust
Flower Valley Farm
Flower Valley Farm is a showcase of pristine fynbos and indigenous forests covering our mountains and valleys, and a demonstration of how to manage these landscapes well.