Active field monitoring ready to launch

Fynbos field monitors are now ready to start actively monitoring the fynbos areas in which article4they live and work. The trainees received their official Field Monitoring certificates in December, at a ceremony held on Flower Valley Farm.

The trainees, including farm workers, flower pickers and alien clearers working on the Agulhas Plain, attended three modules leading to an accredited course over the past six months – Fynbos Ecology, Sustainable Harvesting and Research & Monitoring. The training formed part of the Flower Valley Agulhas Plain Fynbos Monitoring Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme (implemented by the United Nations Development Programme). The Grootbos Foundation presented the training.

According to Grootbos Foundation’s Sean Privett at the ceremony, the work for these students starts now. “The training is just the key; it’s how you put this to use afterwards, and how you incorporate the knowledge, that matters. We want to involve people on the ground to do the field monitoring, to ensure the information compiled stays here on the Agulhas Plain.”

Now that the training is complete, the participants will start to use their skills to help researchers glean more information on fynbos. The idea is to spot potential trends and threats to fynbos, and feed that information through to a research coordinator soon to be appointed by Flower Valley Conservation Trust.

Trainees will also be able to monitor the impacts of invasive alien clearing on fynbos landscapes. Many alien clearers are part of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project, and as such, will be clearing the natural veld of invasive plants over the next three years.

According to the Project Coordinator, Roger Bailey, this provides the ideal opportunity through which local people are capacitated and their skills integrated into broader coordinated research and monitoring practices, which will ultimately inform future fynbos landscape management. “The field monitors will be able to help us improve our knowledge of fynbos, and also how the invasive alien clearing efforts are benefiting the fynbos and natural veld.”

New centre for children in Masekhane

A new Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre will launch in Masakhane, Gansbaai atarticle5 the start of next year – under the Flower Valley Early Childhood Development Programme. This centre will  offer an alternative to children currently receiving care in informal dwellings that do not meet the health and safety or developmental norms and standard requirements.

According to Gabrielle Jonker, Coordinator of the Flower Valley ECD Programme, creating this centre will offer vital care and learning to these children.

“This great step is thanks to a number of passionate and dedicated people’s commitment to young children. This centre is nestled amongst some wise old Milkwood trees that have their roots firmly established. I trust the children will have many happy hours playing in their shade.” The new centre is supported by the Overstrand Municipality, as well as the local community.

The Flower Valley ECD Programme is supporting eight ECD centres in the Overstrand region, with the support of the Western Cape Department of Social Development, to better equip educators and support management functions, and supply learning programme development and training. The programme is also addressing barriers to infrastructure development.

Jonker says that an upcoming area of activity will be addressing the needs of the children of farmworkers living in the Baardskeerdersbos area. “Bringing together stakeholders, we aim to start a Family in Focus, home-based ECD project from June 2014.”

Fynbos sustainability training and audits beefed up

Sustainable harvesting in fynbos is currently part of an extensive project – which aims toarticle3_2 further improve the practice, monitoring and marketing of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme. The project, which is funded by the British government’s Economic and Social Research Council, is being undertaken by Newcastle and Durham Universities in the UK, in partnership with Flower Valley Conservation Trust.

The Sustainable Harvesting Programme offers a toolkit to fynbos harvesters who have signed up – to help them harvest their fynbos according to strict environmental and social standards. A Code of Best Practice for Wild Harvesters encourages pickers to adhere to best practice principles – such as maintaining and building up sufficient seedstock by not picking too many stems. Clearly, removing too much seed will inhibit the plant’s recovery and could ultimately threaten plant populations in the wild.

Harvesters belonging to the Sustainable Harvesting Programme are then checked according to this code, to ensure compliance.

The research, led in South Africa by Research Associate Dr Dave Bek, aims to further build, update and improve the audit tools, and to develop a self-audit process for harvesters, while closely monitoring the impacts of harvesting on the land.

The Programme also currently offers training to harvesters, to help pickers care for thearticle3_1 fynbos. The researchers are developing innovative new training materials – particularly aimed at Xhosa-speaking harvesters, and are exploring potential opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs in wild fynbos harvesting. The Programme will also be promoted to a new set of stakeholders who could benefit from it.

The researchers have also been assessing how sustainable harvesting in fynbos fits into the wider context of ethical consumerism in South Africa and the United Kingdom. While some information is available on the trends in the UK, less is known about ethical consumerism in South Africa’s domestic markets.

Formal fynbos sustainability to be offered across CFR

Formal sustainable harvesting tools will be introduced to new regions in the Cape Floralarticle2 Kingdom where fynbos is actively picked for the market. Through funding from the European Union and the Nedbank Green Trust, three new regions will be offered the opportunity to formally conserve their fynbos landscapes, and to protect those jobs dependent on the fynbos.

The Sustainable Harvesting Programme will now be rolled out on a voluntary basis to the Riversdale area, the Boland and the West Coast. The Programme has to date only been available to harvesters on the Agulhas Plain.
The three new regions host many vulnerable fynbos species. While many land users already take great care of their land, this is the first Programme to formally offer conservation and social and labour benefits in the fynbos sector.

The project will run from early 2014, for the next three years. It will allow new harvesters to gain access to a supportive toolkit – including a Code of Best Practice for Wild Harvesters, as well as training for pickers. A Vulnerability Index will also be developed for each of the new regions, to review the vulnerability of each harvestable species and determine those that can be picked for the markets. This Index already exists for the Agulhas Plain, and members of the Programme only pick those species not listed as endangered.

The project will also support a research and monitoring strategy that can benefit the entire industry, to be undertaken by the scientific community. An overarching strategy will allow those issues most pressing for harvesters and conservation to be addressed. The impact of climate change on fynbos is already reasonably well-known, not least the impact on those animals and birds dependent on fynbos. However, research could further assess how the industry could become increasingly resilient to climate change, and how it could transition to a lower carbon economy.

Currently sustainably harvested bouquets are marketed and sold in two retailers – one in the United Kingdom, and one in South Africa. The project will encourage more retailers to sell these bouquets – to offer consumers the assurance that the landscapes and people are cared for by members of the Programme.

For more information, contact Flower Valley’s Conservation Manager, Roger Bailey: Email:rbailey@flowervalley.co.za or Tel. 028 388 0713.

A message from Flower Valley’s Executive Director

If we achieved anything in 2013, it has been to expand our circle with so many childrenarticle1 and young people living in our fynbos landscape. And that truly excites us. The children in our own Flower Valley Pre-school; the children who are benefiting from the Flower Valley Early Childhood Development Programme; the youth who joined our Field Monitoring training and the over 150 people under the age of 35 who are part of the ABI Alien Clearing Programme.

A special highlight has been to watch and be a part of the growth and development of our four Groen Sebenza interns, or ‘pioneers’, as they’re to be called. These four – who come from across the country – have become an integral part of the Flower Valley family. And they’ve not only learnt from us, but we’ve also learnt so much from them.

They’ve also easily slotted into our various programmes – from our Sustainable Harvesting Programme, to our invasive alien clearing coordination function, and all the other roles we play that we believe ultimately work towards landscape-level conservation and community empowerment. We look forward to 2014 and the many exciting developments in next year’s calendar that we’re set to be part of (see the rest of the newsletter for more).

In the meantime, we wish you – our Flower Valley donors and friends – a relaxing and restful festive season. May we all renew our vigour in the company of family and friends. And may we welcome 2014 with optimism and inspiration.

Kind regards,
Lesley Richardson

Executive Director
Flower Valley Conservation Trust

Flower Valley Pre-school’s graduation

Three Flower Valley pre-schoolers have graduated – and will attend primary school fromschool next year. The three children graduated during a concert held by the school for parents in Gansbaai – as part of the end of year celebrations.

Melvin Botha and Johlene Fortuin will attend Gansbaai Primary School next year, while Johnay Moos will attend a local primary school at Langverwacht.

Aside from the graduation and the concert, the children also received a surprise visit from Father Christmas, who handed out presents to them. The event also served as a fundraiser for the school – which caters for children aged between two and six, many of them from rural communities.

The school also emphasises environmental education, and has been an active participant in the Eco-Schools programme for the past seven years. The Eco-Schools curriculum includes themes such as: Nature and Biodiversity, Healthy Living and the Use of Natural Resources. The 2013 Eco-Schools theme was ‘Water for All’.

The Flower Valley Early Learning Centre has also been highlighted to serve as a demonstration site under the Flower Valley Early Childhood Development Programme – allowing other schools to visit the farm and learn from it.

And while 2013 ended on a positive note, 2014 is also looking particularly upbeat. The school already has 17 children confirmed to attend classes there next year, out of a possible 20.

For more information, contact Natasha Forbes. Email: elc@flowervalley.co.za

schoolconsert

Flower Valley’s own emerging leader

Flower Valley participated in an Emerging Leaders workshop organised through UKgroen retailer Marks & Spencer. The Trust’s Mntambo Nakwa attended the course held in November near Ceres.

The three-day workshop seeks to help develop future leaders, ensure better planning and increased organisational effectiveness. It also focuses on personal transformation and improved family life.

The course was hosted by Emerging Leaders, which in turn is supported by Marks & Spencer. Emerging Leaders aims to develop leadership skills for youth in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mntambo joined Flower Valley in July 2013, as part of the Groen Sebenza Internship Programme. He has already shown himself to be a future leader, taking active roles in the Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme and the ABI Alien Clearing Project.

marksandspencer1

marksandspencer3

Research training on Flower Valley Farm

Local people working as fynbos harvesters and farmworkers have been receiving researchfynbosresearch and monitoring training on Flower Valley Farm – with the aim to ultimately become ‘custodians’ of our veld. Under the Agulhas Plain Fynbos Monitoring Project, the trainees are receiving skills to effectively monitor the natural vegetation, and to help spot any potential threats to our fynbos.

The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme (implemented by the United Nations Development Programme). Through the project, up to 30 trainees have now received training in understanding fynbos, sustainable harvesting, and now in research and monitoring.

The training will be completed in November, with candidates to write exams on what they have learnt. After that, the field monitors will return to their areas of work, to monitor the fynbos veld. Some of the trainees are also involved in the ABI Alien Clearing Project – giving them the opportunity to monitor the effects of removing invasive alien plants on fynbos. Few alien clearing projects include research on the impacts on natural vegetation over the long term.

Fynbos birds threatened by climate change

Small birds endemic to fynbos are under threat, even facing possible extinction, as a resultbird of the warming climate. Alan Lee of the Climate Change Adaptation Division at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) says that the existence of these birds may well rely on active management programmes in the future.

Lee was speaking at the Fynbos Forum, held in Kirstenbosch in October. He said that fynbos birds are extremely vulnerable to both rising temperatures and changes in the vegetation brought about by hotter weather. “Long term weather sets from around the fynbos point to significant warming since 1960, which means these predictions must be taken very seriously.”

There are six birds endemic to fynbos: the Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin, Protea Seedeater, Cape Rockjumper and Victorin’s Warbler. Their populations vary, with the Cape Rockjumper population, for example, thought to be between 31,000 and 57,000.

Lee, however, warned that should temperatures rise by four degrees, the Cape Rockjumper could become extinct. The Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Victorin’s Warbler in turn are vulnerable to the impact of climate change on fynbos vegetation.

He said the birds are “not only important for ecosystem functioning and biodiversity conservation, but also economically as target species in the avitourism sector.” The continued care of core habitats that fall in the protected area network are therefore vital.

Flower Valley Conservation Trust’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme will increasingly target research to assess the impacts of climate change on fynbos and on the fynbos industry. This research, set to form part of the Programme as it rolls out to new harvesting areas in the Cape Floral Kingdom, will look at how rising temperatures impact fynbos, while finding ways for the fynbos industry to become more resilient to climate change.