A story of local organisations and communities rehabilitating Port Elizabeth’s water catchments.
In South Africa Living Lands and Grounded, are working in the Baviaanskloof and Langkloof on an ambitious goal to rehabilitate soil health and water retention capacity of ecosystems while empowering communities to innovate and become more resilient. Living Lands has been active since 2009 and Grounded joined the collaboration in 2014.
The Baviaanskloof and Langkloof comprise three river catchments (the Baviaanskloof, Kouga and Kromme) which collectively supply 70% of the water to the 1.3 million inhabitants living in the city of Port Elizabeth as well as agriculture in and downstream of these catchments. Local teams are working together with farmers and landowners on the ground to enable the transition to more sustainable agricultural practices and to actively restore ecological functionality.
Living Lands is based on the landscape, becoming part of the community and mobilising stakeholders to develop a shared landscape vision, facilitate research, and implementation of large-scale ecological restoration projects on the ground. They do this together with farmers and communities in the area. Grounded’s role is to identify, test and develop new business models, focusing on regenerative crops. Grounded sets up landscape-level entities to enable farmers to generate long-term sustainable profits.
- The Baviaanskloof is home to three of the world’s most critical biodiversity locations with a variety of plants that do not occur anywhere else on the planet: the Cape Floristic Region, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot and the Succulent Karoo Hotspot.
- The Baviaanskloof catchment suffers from decades of wetland degradation, vegetation loss and soil erosion. Together with the impacts of climate change this leads to increased and more intense flood and drought events.
- The Langkloof is an important deciduous fruit producing region
- The Langkloof is risk prone, with regular droughts, floods and wildfires. This natural characteristic, coupled with the loss of wetlands that act as a natural water buffer and the invasion of alien tree species, has shaped the catchment areas, affecting the water supply for everyone downstream.
- Port Elizabeth, the largest city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa faces severe water shortages regularly.
Rehabilitating the Langkloof and Baviaanskloof catchments
- People are proud of the Baviaanskloof Development Company; children of farmers are coming back to the farm.
- The Langkloof is celebrated as the “home of honeybush”
The Honeybush nursery
50 jobs created, collaboration between different cultural backgrounds in the Baviaanskloof and Langkloof
One of the teams constructing sediment traps in the Baviaanskloof
46.000 ha under improved management (entirety of the Baviaanskloof) with flow-on impact to the Port Elizabeth catchment (c. 1 million people).
Vegetation regeneration in the Baviaanskloof
Improved cost-benefit ratios for farmers active in the Baviaanskloof Devco and Langkloof Honeybush Co.
Sheep grazing in a rosemary field in the Baviaanskloof
From alien invasive clearing and alluvial fan restoration to the continuous engagement and mobilization of farmers and community members. Energy breaks, brush packing, ponding and the planting of indigenous Spekboom.
Fire driven restoration in the Langkloof
Supporting improved management of livestock on the veld; and sustainable harvesting of indigenous crops; the continuous engagement and mobilization of farmers and community members. Energy breaks, brush packing, ponding and the planting of indigenous plants such as Spekboom
Holes dug for brushpacking
Regenerative agriculture including compost teas, organic / biological pest control, cover crops – which also can be feed for livestock; cultivation of crops, both exotic and indigenous; the processing, marketing and distribution of dried and distilled products; developing 4 Returns business cases and other interventions to facilitate landscape restoration including a water fund; the continuous engagement and mobilization of farmers and community members.
Pilot field of aromatics
Role of business
As part of the landscape restoration approach in the Baviaanskloof and with the support of Commonland, Grounded and Living Lands, together with farmers set up an essential oils processing, marketing and distribution company (the Baviaanskloof Development Company: Devco).
The Baviaanskloof Devco company has been able to implement a large scale regenerative agriculture program on its cultivated fields, through a strong partnership with Living Lands. This consists of cover cropping, various kinds of compost applications, essential microbes, soil minerals, as well as the use of livestock to graze between the rows. The company enables the farmers to diversify their income and thereby helping to reduce pressure of overgrazing of livestock on the mountain slopes.
Likewise in the Langkloof, Grounded is working with Living Lands to implement a holistic Landscape Business Plan using the 4 returns model.
The key focus is to cultivate and sustainably harvest Honeybush in the area. Honeybush tea is a healthy and tasty tea that has become increasingly popular across the globe over the last decade. Living Lands is working with landowners and harvesters to develop Sustainable Harvesting Plans to protect wild species of Honeybush. Sustainable cultivation on old fields will take pressure off the wild stocks and support the natural rehabilitation of the area. The project aims to bring balance back to the Langkloof and increase the area’s natural biodiversity.
Grounded established The Langkloof Honeybush Co. which will process and market the honeybush which is harvested and cultivated in line with the principles outlined in the sustainable harvesting plans and cultivation plans.
Currently, different cropping strategies are being trialed and a development phase is underway to test different blends whilst the first buyers and market players are being engaged. Furthermore, a seedling nursery has been set up and research Is being undertaken to determine best practices regarding the cultivation of honeybush.
Achieved so far
- Since its inception, Living Lands has successfully piloted various ecological rehabilitation innovations and they are currently upscaling these efforts. Rehabilitation practices include brush packing, small pondings/micro water catchments, removal of alien species, and replanting and protection of indigenous species.
- Large part of the focus of collaborations lies on conversion of existing farmland to more sustainable farming practices. This will allow landowners to remove their numbers of small stock such as goats from the hillsides, freeing up the land for restoration activities. New agricultural practices are then introduced which require significantly less water than the existing practices as well as 100 times smaller area of land.
- The Baviaanskloof Devco is producing organic essential oils, as well as organic dried rosemary for the food ingredient industry to produce a natural food preservative
- Farmer-owned nurseries have been set up to propagate seedlings for planting into the land, improving seedling survival rates and lowering seedling costs. h. This development improves economic resilience as the cuttings had improved survival rates.
- In the Langkloof, Living Lands and Grounded are working on kick-starting sustainable honeybush tea production. Honeybush Tea is a healthy and tasty tea that has become increasingly popular on the global market. This carries the threat of overharvesting and has put many Honeybush varieties under threat.
- Living Lands and Grounded have made significant progress in a setting up The Langkloof Honeybush Co. to buy, process and market tea and a local working group to support farmers wishing to cultivate tea.
- From a water catchment point of view, invasive alien trees threaten water security and impact biodiversity. Living Lands is currently testing rehabilitation techniques to determine locally-appropriate methods such as fire, mechanical and chemical control.