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Flower Valley Conservation Trust operates in the heart of the threatened Cape Floral Kingdom. In 1999, Flower Valley farm, found close to the most southerly tip of Africa where the Trust is based, was threatened by plans to plant vineyards. That would have led to many hectares of invaluable fynbos, the local indigenous vegetation, being lost. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) intervened – and with the help of the Arcadia Fund, bought the land, and set up Flower Valley Conservation Trust.
Today the Trust, with the help of FFI, continues to work to protect the endangered fynbos. The Cape Floral Kingdom is known for its rich biodiversity, sporting some 8000 plant species alone. Of that, nearly 70% of species are found nowhere else in the world. Distressingly, even today 1,700 fynbos species are threatened to some extent with extinction.
Fynbos faces numerous threats. Invasive alien plants have overrun much of the Cape Floral Kingdom, suffocating out the rare fynbos. Also, many fynbos-covered areas have been cleared, to make way for more financially-rewarding crops and vineyards.
The harvesting of fynbos, to sell to local and export markets, is an age-old livelihood of the region, where many are now dependent on fynbos for their income. When fynbos plants are overpicked, in other words not picked sustainably, their regrowth is threatened. Poor picking methods can increase fire risks, erosion and trampling. Depleting fynbos fields then threatens those incomes made from flower picking – with most of those employed by the fynbos industry coming from vulnerable local communities.
Flower Valley Conservation Trust has now, together with government and the fynbos industry, set up a sustainable harvesting code of best practice. Along with six other fynbos suppliers, it’s now testing that code. So far, the results from this pilot study have been promising:
Through this initiative, government, private landowners and conservation groups have been brought together, to encourage fynbos conservation through better land management practices. Key markets have been secured for fynbos, with Marks & Spencer in the UK and Pick n Pay in South Africa now selling a substantial volume of bouquets from ethically harvested fynbos.
Still, much needs to be done. With FFI’s help, Flower Valley Conservation Trust continues to promote sustainable fynbos harvesting and sustainable social development on the Agulhas Plain in South Africa’s Western Cape.
The Trust’s objectives:
Childcare is critical in the area, where schooling facilities are scant. The children of flower pickers were in the past often left to fend for themselves. That’s why, just six months after Flower Valley Conservation Trust was born, an Early Learning Centre was created on the farm. It now cares for children from the area aged between two and six, offering them an environmental-based education, good nutrition and safety.
“Through sustainable harvesting, we protect the veld in which we work. That not only conserves the rare fynbos, but also offers me a permanent livelihood, from the seasonal job I had before.”
Harvester, Flower Valley Conservation Trust