The Baviaanskloof is a unique biodiversity hotspot in South Africa
.. and home to communities who innovate in the face of climate change and land degradation
The Baviaanskloof is home to three of the world’s most critical biodiversity locations. It provides water to downstream fruit farmers as well as water users in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality. Yet, this landscape is one of semi-arid and arid conditions with 300 mm of rainfall per year on average. Climate change however impacts this landscape with two extremes: both floods and droughts occur more and more frequently. Decades of overgrazing from goat farming has led to massive vegetation loss and soil erosion. If goat farming remains the primary form of income in the area the land could well become desert.
Living Lands and Grounded have worked in the Baviaanskloof since 2009 and 2014 respectively, with the ambitious goal to restore biodiversity, soil health and water retention capacity of the ecosystem while at the same time empowering the communities to innovate and become more ecologically, economically and socially resilient.
Between the Kouga and Baviaans mountain ranges lies the Baviaanskloof Valley. The Baviaans River flows into the Kouga River, shortly thereafter entering the Kouga Dam. The dam lies within the Baviaans Mega Reserve, a World Heritage Site, providing water to downstream communities such as fruit farmers as well as citizens in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality. Mean annual rainfall is approximately 300 mm and is distributed throughout the year with distinct peaks in spring and autumn. The mean annual temperature is 17 C. Temperatures of up to 40 C are frequently recorded in mid to late summer, whereas winter temperatures may occasionally drop below freezing in valley bottoms. Soils are deep , neutral and moderately fertile sandy loams.
The Baviaanskloof is home to three of the world’s most critical biodiversity locations with a variety of plants that don’t occur anywhere else on the planet: the Cape Floristic Region, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot and the Succulent Karoo Hotspot. The Baviaanskloof is comprised of private farms surrounded by the largest wilderness area in South Africa.
The Baviaans catchment suffers from the impacts of climate change, leading to increased flood and drought events, effects of which are intensified by overgrazing, wetland degradation and erosion. In the Baviaanskloof Hartland, the privately owned western part of the Baviaanskloof, more than 9 000 ha of the land is degraded.
Decades of overgrazing from goat farming has led to massive vegetation loss and soil erosion. If goat farming remains the primary form of income in the area the land could well become desert.
This landscape has the potential to turn the losses from degradation into 4 returns. There are already restoration initiatives working towards ambitious goals: