The Baviaanskloof is home to three of the world’s most critical biodiversity areas – the Cape Floristic Region, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany hotspot and the Succulent Karoo hotspot. The region is home to a wide variety of plants that don’t occur anywhere else on the planet. The Baviaanskloof is comprised of private farms surrounded by the largest wilderness area in South Africa. Decades of goat farming has led to massive land degradation. If goat farming remains the primary form of income in the area, the land could well become desert.
Commonland is the founding partner of Grounded and we used Commonland’s Four Returns model to create a new way forward with the area’s farmers.
Living Lands had been active in the area for eight years. Together with the farmers, they built up a large knowledge-base and developed and in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities of restoring the soil. They also built strong trust-based relationships with the community.
The challenge was to find a workable economic model that would support the transition from goat farming to something else that was more sustainable and profitable and that would also restore soil quality, increase the vegetation cover and add to the water table.
The business model we developed with the farmers introduced essential oils as an alternative source of income. We started with organic lavandin and rosemary. The advantage of these particular herbs is that they require very little water and they can be farmed on an area 100 times smaller than the area needed for goats. The oil is durable and has a high value, so it is well suited for this remote environment.
The farmers have established a company called the “Baviaanskloof Development Company” which processes the essential oils on the land itself. Grounded assisted in the establishment of this company and continues to provide managerial and marketing support.
The Baviaanskloof Development Company has established the first fields of Lavandin abrialis and Rosemary, as well as a variety of other herbal crops that are being trialed including Cape Chamomile (Eriocephalus punctulatus), Helichrisum splendidum (Cape Gold), Thyme and Blue Yarrow.
The company received a long-term loan from Commonland to set up the business. The processing facility is ready, and the first crop has been harvested. In addition, farmers have already made land available for restoration. With support from The Coca Cola Africa Foundation, GEF and the Dutch Postcode Lottery, Living Lands is working on the active rehabilitation of 2 500 hectares of degraded land, which means millions of trees will be reintroduced onto the hillsides. The project is generating at least 30 to 40 full-time jobs at the moment.