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With renewed energy for our strategy framework, we have restructured ourselves to be more adaptable and efficient to deal with the post-COVID lock down climate.

Our core focus is conserving biodiversity and building resilience starting with the child, through a life cycle learning approach. The Trust’s approach is to ensure that the conservation work done helps build resilience for biodiversity. Through training and support to early childhood practitioners, children will be better prepared to effectively adapt to the climate emergency. This will contribute towards an inclusive, educated and adaptive society.

Flower Valley demonstrates its work through measurable impacts starting with the 540 hectares of pristine fynbos on Flower Valley farm.  Our aim is for the farm to become a replicable model for learning and conservation of biodiversity. This is evident from our latest news letter. 

The Flower Valley Farm is the centre for all our activities and home to everyone who loves fynbos. We hope to see you visit our hiking trails and accommodation offerings soon, and that you enjoy our latest news. 

Kind regards,

Roger Bailey
Executive Director: Flower Valley Conservation Trust

Flower Valley Conservation Trust

The Trust

For the Trust, it has been 21 years of growth, progress and learning.

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Exploring and understanding fynbos systems through research

Over the past few month’s Flower Valley was visited by a few Universities to explore our unique fynbos systems. 

The following is interesting research done on Flower Valley Farm. 

Multispectral Imagery

Colin Geel (surveyor) and Dr. Kevin Musungu (Cape Peninsula University of Technology: CPUT) tested multispectral imagery for future spatial analysis research on Flower Valley Farm. This means that images taken from the drone are able to see a different perspective than what is possible with the human eye. Some images can enhance our understanding of alien invasive biomass, agricultural pest, water availability, soils types or different plant species. Flower Valley looks forward to seeing how this advanced technology could be applied within the conservation landscape.

Pollin Traps

Flower Valley also had a visit from postdoc Nadia du Plessis (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: NMMU), who is investigating different types of pollen from fynbos species in limestone soils. She set-up some pollen traps on Flower Valley farm. The pollen trapped will be used to compare fynbos species found currently, to species found historically in the area based on soil core samples. Soil core samples keep a pollen record over time, similar to tree rings, and the deeper the core, the further back in time it represents. Using this record researchers can compare how fynbos looked in the past, based on the present.

Lauren Searle and Matthew Farquharson, two fourth year students from the Conservation Ecology Class at Stellenbosch University, completed their field work at Flower Valley farm early this year for their end of year project.

Alien Invasives

Lauren is looking at the “Efficiency of drone-technology versus ground-based methodologies for evaluating the density and distribution of invasive alien vegetation”. This can potentially offer an alternative to the current field-based approach for measuring alien densities, and provide imagery for long term monitoring of restoration efforts in the alien clearing project.

 

Aquatic diversity

Matthew’s project is comparing the natural versus invasive riparian habitats in farm dams and how this impacts invertebrate diversity. Invertebrate diversity is closely linked to water quality. These results can inform management decisions on water quality, based on the type of vegetation surrounding farm dams. 

It will be exciting to hear more about their findings at the end of the year.

Alien Clearing across the Agulhas Plain

After a prolonged break in the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative’s Alien Clearing Project, work started in early January 2021.

2 734 hectares of alien vegetation was cleared this year. 

Since 2013, the project has successfully cleared 47 000 hectares of alien plants, saving ~16 million m3 of water run-off for the ecosystem. For every hectare of invaded alien invasive species an estimated 347 cubic meters of water run-off is lost compared to intact fynbos.

The success of this achievement is attributed to the dedication of landowners to keep their properties alien species free, and the thirteen contractors that are committed to the people employed in their teams. This project employs 140 people seasonally within the rural areas of the Agulhas region, and for some communities, it is one of the few work opportunities available.

The work is done in collaboration with the following partners:

  • Akkedisberg Conservancy
  • De Diepegat Conservancy
  • Klein Riviersberg Conservancy
  • Napier Mountain Conservancy
  • Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area
  • Solitaire Conservancy
  • Spanjaardskloof Boere Vereeniging
  • Strandveld Boere Vereeniging
  • Walker bay Fynbos Conservancy

This landscape scale project is funded by the Department of Environment Fisheries and Forestry, Drakenstein Trust, Millennium Trust, and landowners. 

If you are interested in getting involved, knowing more about alien species, or employing one of the alien clearing contractors contact Stanley (stanley@flowervalley.co.za).

Life skills learning

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” B.B. King

Flower Valley aims to be a vibrant space for learning and engagement, so that everyone can have an equal opportunity to access knowledge. The past three months 97 people attended our facilitated workshops and courses.

The courses and workshops are selected based on the essential compliance needs to run a business in the green economy or an early learning center. People attending the workshops are actively involved in Flower Valley’s long-term projects, and capacity building needs are identified through these engagements.

The green economy benefited from skills building through accredited health and safety, first aid, herbicide assistance, chainsaw training and unaccredited induction to sustainable harvesting. All accredited courses were sponsored by the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry. These courses are necessary for small businesses to have employees with the right skills and certificates to complete their work. 

Workshops to support 27 early learning centres with compliance were hosted to register centers with the Department of Social Development. One workshop explained how the unemployment insurance fund works within the context of small business.

A separate workshop was held on how to open a business bank account and register on the central supplier database so that early learning centers can apply for the presidential early childhood relief fund. Flower Valley partnered with the Grootbos Foundation and held an administration and governance workshop for how centers can register with the Department of Social Development. 

Through these knowledge exchange events, we are certain that these small businesses will become well equipped to manage their businesses.

Converting an old bathtub into an earthworm farm!

To have the best vegetables and plants you need amazing compost. Unati, the horticulturist at Flower Valley Farm, explains how she re-used an old bathtub to make an earthworm farm at the outdoor classroom.

How to set up an earthworm bathtub?

You will need a bathtub (or another container) cardboard boxes, newspapers, soil, food scraps, and some earthworms to start your worm farm.

First, select a container that is suitable for your composting needs. At Flower Valley farm we used an old bathtub, which is big enough for our composting and gardens.

Choose a cool place for the bathtub to be placed. Earthworms dislike areas that are too warm or wet.

Make sure that the container is lifted enough to drain away the liquid from the worm compost.

Using wet cardboard boxes, place layers at the bottom of the bath until it is 10-15cm thick, and then add the worms and food scraps. Add more food scraps and plant debris to cover worms.

Sprinkle soil lightly over the food scraps or plant debris to keep the compost moist, and cover the bath to avoid sun or rain coming in.

The paper and cardboard (bedding) should be kept moist, but not soggy, and the top 15 to 18 cm turned every 7 to 10 days to keep it loose.

About every 6 to 9 months the old paper should be replaced with properly prepared new paper bedding (moist and brown). To change bedding, remove the top 12or 15 cm (where most of the worms are).

The breeding cycle is approximately 27 days from mating to laying eggs. Worms can double in population every 60 days.

Benefits of earthworm composting

The liquid collected at the base of the bathtub makes a concentrated bio-fertilizer that can be used in the following ways:

– The raw earthworm liquid can be applied directly onto non-edible plants like flowers, trees, and bushes.

– Dilute the worm liquid with water and add it to the compost pile as a compost activator.

– For edible plants, the earthworm compost needs to be filtered. This can be done using a pillowcase. Put the raw liquid into the pillowcase and leave it overnight in a container. This removes all particulates, and produces an earth worm tea, which is a “super juice” for vegetables. This liquid needs to be used within 48 hours.

The Flower Valley earthworm farm is now ready for composting and making earthworm tea for our gardens.

Welcoming Shaquille to Flower Valley Farm

Flower Valley partnered with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and their graduate internship programme aimed at youth pursuing a career in conservation or biology. Shaquille Benjamin is the successful applicant for the position of Ecology Intern and we are excited to welcome him to our team.

A bit about Shaquille.

Shaquille decided to become a biologist, because while growing up he was fascinated with a natural patch of bush close to his house that had so much diversity, but unfortunately was ploughed, leading to a complete loss of biodiversity. This event led him to become curious and show a keen interest in protecting the environment, whether it is terrestrial, marine, or freshwater based.

He completed his undergraduate degree in biodiversity and conservation biology at the University of the Western Cape and his honours degree in biodiversity and ecology at Stellenbosch University.  His honours thesis looked at how coastal communities in Mozambique influenced mangrove invertebrate diversity, and which invertebrate species could possibly be used as indicator species to track the impact of excessive land use within the mangrove system.

Outside of work Shaquille’s interests include any physical activities such as hiking, diving, surfing, and football. He also partakes in an ocean initiative, called SeaTheBiggerPicture, as a volunteer and mentor, which takes kids snorkelling for their first time and teaches them about the intertidal zones found along our coast.

What will he being doing at Flower Valley?

During his internship at Flower Valley, Shaquille wants to improve his faunal and floral identification skills and learn more about the relationships between the different species that occur within fynbos, especially on the Flower Valley Farm. He is extremely interested in learning from the different projects at Flower Valley and hopes to gain valuable experience for his future endeavours. Most of his time will be spent implementing the farm management plan.

The Flower Valley team look forward to working with Shaquille, and seeing his journey of learning and future contributions on the Farm.

Flower Valley’s Latest News

The Flower Valley team has had busy year with delivering food to mothers and children, and equipping people with skills for potential business opportunities. Have a look on our blog to see the latest news on the essential work done by Flower Valley.

The 2020 year has had a number of challenges for everyone, and being able to adapt and respond rapidly to change is essential. Over the past 3 months Flower Valley has undergone an intensive review of the organisation, to ensure we are still relevant, operate efficiently, and have the greatest impact for biodiversity, communities and children. The new year will bring a revived team with a renewed focus on Flower Valley farm, which is the base for all our activities.

A big thank you to our friends, family, donors, and partners for all your support this year. We have achieved so much thanks to your generosity and believing in the work we do.

Flower Valley sends everyone season’s greetings, and best wishes for the holidays.

Kind regards,

Roger Bailey (Executive Director)

What do you know about Biological Control?

“Biological control is about supporting the eventual clearing operations” Dr Alan Wood.

Alien invasive plant species threaten biodiversity, reduce water run-off, and increase risk of fire in the Overberg. Flower Valley has been working to control the spread of alien invasive plants for the past 21 years. One of the successful methods is through the release of organisms that inhibit the production of seed stock, and reduce growth and spread of an alien invader. This is known as biological control mechanisms (biocontrol).

Flower Valley Conservation Trust coordinated a successful biological control workshop for interested landowners in the Overberg region on the 25th of November 2020. The workshop aimed at providing landowners with the knowledge and practical skills to release and monitor biological control agents on targeted alien plant species. Hearth and Soul Eco farm in Akkedisberg Conservancy hosted the venue, and biocontrol expert Dr Alan Wood generously shared his knowledge with the group.

This conservancy and neighboring areas have high infestation of Hakea species. Hakea originates from Australia and is well adapted to the South African Mediterranean climate and fire. Hakea is able to spread profusely in the absence of natural predators. Two species occur in the Overberg: Hakea gibbose (rock hakea) and Hakea sericea (silky hakea). Hakea often grows in dense, impenetrable forests, and spreads high into the mountains making it inaccessible to remove through conventional clearing.

 

Planned releases of biocontrol in 2021 will be coordinated by Flower Valley through the support from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), and the Drakenstein Trust.

Thank you to Dr. Alan Wood from the Agricultural Research Council’s Plant Protection Research Institute for leading the workshop. Special thanks to Sybille Nagel for providing the venue and snacks, and all the landowners who attended.

 

FACTS ABOUT BIOCONTROL:

  • It is a long-term solution to the reduce the spread of alien species
  • It is one of the most cost-effective ways to control alien species
  • Biocontrol will never remove the species completely
  • When biocontrol is released, the organism has undergone extensive trials to make sure it does not damage other species.

 

 

Experiential Learning at Flower Valley

Preparing and mentoring individuals within Flower Valley’s field-based work contributes towards increased probability of employment and opportunities for growth during a time of stasis. This is essential given the current state of the South African economy being strained with lock down restrictions.

The Flower Valley Conservation Trust hosts a number of opportunities to engage in learning which is current and offers hands-on experience for attendees.

As part of the preparation for the Alien Clearing Project, funded by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, participants underwent annual medical examinations. Flower Valley facilitated health and safety induction training focused on the Covid-19 pandemic for 141 participants planned to work in the upcoming project. This forms part of the project’s risk mitigation plan in reducing the spread of the virus.

An experiential approach to learning was done with the snake and field survival training modules for 42 attendees. The training held over three days included basic map reading skills, snake identification, first aid procedures and practical assessments. Thirteen participants qualified in chainsaw competency, which offers employment opportunities in alien clearing projects, wood cutting and forestry. This was held at Flower Valley Farm over 10 days and forms part of the alien clearing project.

Flower Valley held teacher workshops on music, movement and storytelling at Buffeljagsbaai and Masahkane Early Learning centres during November and December. Storytelling is a powerful tool to enable young children with learning . A good story brings out the imagination of the child in how it is told. The underlying values and message that is conveyed brings healing, stimulates creative play and imagination.  Engaging children through stories of the heart and reading from books, is a focus of Flower Valley when working with teachers.

Music and movement are  fun ways to develop gross motor development of young children. This is especially important after the lockdown period, where movement was restricted.  Gross motor development is a vital component of a child’s growth.  Hosting these workshops contribute towards better muscle co-ordination and movement development in young children, so that they can be more adept in future.

Flower Valley encourages lifecycle learning starting with the child, and promotes practical and physically engaging methods of capacity building. Testimonials of the trainees show their appreciation of investments made by donors and supporters of Flower Valley.

“Thank you for a wonderful course. I am so happy for the experience I gained. This is paving my way for a fruitful future.” Derek Massias

 

Pincushions in full bloom on Flower Valley Farm

Birds, mice, ants and fire all play a role in the amazing lifecycle of these beautiful pincushions. Flower Valley Farm has three commonly occurring types of pincushions: Leucospermum patersonii, Leucospermum cordifolium and Leucospermum prostratum. These colourful balls can be seen by visitors while hiking, and have a fascinating relationship within the ecosystem. The unique pincushion flowers have adapted by developing nectar, scent, bright colours, and shapes to attract mice or birds for pollination.

Once the flower heads fall onto the ground, it breaks open and ants carry the seed underground. The seeds are covered by a fatty layer that attracts the ants, which is called an elaiosome. The ants eat the elaiosome and leave the exposed seed in the ground until a fynbos fire triggers germination and growth. The fire temperature and seed depth all influence the success of germination and ultimately the lifecycle of the pincushion.

 

Some interesting facts about the pincushions at Flower Valley Farm:

Leucospermum patersonii (silver-edge pincushion)

This flower is represented on the Flower Valley logo, because it is unique to threatened limestone fynbos and abundant on Flower Valley farm. Leucospermum patersonii flowers from August to November between Kleinmond and the Elim Flats near Cape Agulhas. The big orange flower heads act as a landing pad for sugarbirds that visit to extract nectar from the flower head. During this process sugar birds transport pollen from the long-incurved styles to other flower heads.

Leucospermum cordifolium

Leucospermum cordifolium can be seen in flower from August to January on acid nutrient poor soils in the Bredasdorp mountains, Soetanysberg, Elim areas and as far as Kleinmond and Houhoek. Flower heads are yellow to orange or crimson. Pollinators include the friendly sunbird, and fynbos endemic sugarbirds.

 

Leucospermum prostratum (yellow trailing pincushion)

Leucospermum prostratum can be seen in flower during the months of July to December, trailing on the ground in sandy areas. Visitors often miss this ground pincushion and need to look closely for it. This pincushion occurs from the Kogelberg to the Elim hills. Flower heads are bright yellow and turn deep orange or red when mature. This small pincushion has a huge amount of pollen and sweet-scented flower heads that attract field mice, which pollinate the plant.