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The rationale behind the Flower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT) is straight-forward: “… if we pick all the fynbos this year, there will be no fynbos to pick in the future” (Van Deventer et al, 2015).

The media party was greeted by Roger Bailey (Operations Manager) and Kirsten Watson (Conservation Manager). Heather D’Alton (Communications Manager) had accompanied us from the packhouse (see previous blog). After a short restroom break, we set out on a tour of the farm to see the harvesting operation.

Whether the job involves picking/marketing fynbos, removing invasive alien plants or conservation and ecotourism, many livelihoods happen because of fynbos, and so it is in the interests of everyone in the Overberg (and beyond) that its Cape Floral Kingdom is properly managed.

The benefits of fynbos go beyond the economic value referred to above. When they aren’t pollinating fruit trees, honeybees feed from the fynbos flowers. In a particularly water-stressed province, fynbos allows more water to make its way to rivers and dams because it does not consume as much water as invasives do. (Not only do invasive alien plants guzzle precious water, but they also prevent fynbos from growing).

Fynbos is protected by law. It is illegal to pick it without the appropriate licence from a conservation authority like CapeNature, and if you clear fynbos veld to make way for another crop you face jail time and a fine.

To protect both fynbos and the jobs that it makes possible, the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) was initiated in 2003, the result of ten years’ work by FVCT, Cape Nature, experts and the fynbos industry.

Recognising that farming enterprises need to make money from their operations, the SHP offers landowners certain benefits in exchange for joining the Programme:

  • Greater access to markets which are increasingly environmentally conscious
  • Help in meeting all the criteria set out in environmental and labour/social legislation
  • Extension support
  • Access to tools to monitor your harvesting

The SHP Toolkit offers supports with securing the necessary floral license, field assessments and training opportunities. In short, it allows for both responsible harvesting and fynbos veld monitoring.

This has been greatly assisted by the development of an app, the i-Fynbos. The app includes the Flower Valley Field Guide: a photograph of the flower and a description assists the harvester to know which flowers can be picked and which should be left alone (some plants are unique to the area – if they are wiped out here, they are wiped out for good!)

   

Most of the land in the fynbos biome is owned by farmers whose margins are tighter than ever before. If they don’t turn a profit they go out of business, a consideration among the many other concerns, be these political, social or environmental. It is noteworthy that the work being supported by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust – like the Flower Valley Conservation Trust – includes practical assistance for landowners.

Back at the Flower Valley office there are more conversations over our lunch packs. The realisation has come that fynbos, up to now covered in the “Cut flowers” chapter, requires a chapter of its own in the Agri Handbook, and so I have several questions for both Watson and Bailey.

Soon we are on the road again, making our way to Cape Town. And as we view the Cape Floral Kingdom through the bus windows, I give a quiet thank-you to the people who are making the effort to ensure that it is looked after.

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