The Baviaanskloof is home to three of the world’s most critical biodiversity locations – 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 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.
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.
Living Lands had been active in the area for eight years. Together with the farmers, they built up a large knowledge-base and developed an in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities of restoring the soil. They also built strong trust-based relationships with the community.
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 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 established a landscape company called the “Baviaanskloof Development Company” which processes the essential oils in the landscape. Grounded assisted in the establishment of this company and continues to provide managerial and marketing support.
The Baviaanskloof Development Company produces essential oils and dried herbs from a variety of crops, including Lavandin abrialis, different kinds of Rosemary, and a variety of indigenous plants including Cape chamomile (Eriocephalus punctulatus) and Kooigoed (Helichrisum splendidum).Tests are being performed with Kalahari Melon seed, which grows naturally in the area. Various other crops are being trialed. All the crops are organically certified (i.e. we have received a Ceres certificate for transitioning to organic).
The company is well-established and the second harvest is taking place in the summer of 2018-2019. There is also strong independent management in place.
The Baviaanskloof Devco has been able to implement a large scale (+200 ha) 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 farmers have all established nurseries on their farms, and have tested various crops. Rosemary grows very well (we have a couple of different varieties), just like some of the indigenous crops like Cape chamomile. The plan is to upscale those crops in 2019. In addition, farmers have 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. More than 1,000 ha have been restored already, and the project is generating at least 30 to 40 full-time jobs at the moment. More information can be found in Living Land’s Twitter feed.
Grounded helped establish the Baviaanskloof Devco and was very active in the company in the early stages. Currently Grounded supports the Baviaanskloof Devco with sales of its products, access to capital and financial management and it performs the role of Managing Director in the company (we are appointed in this position by Commonland – the investor in the Baviaanskloof).
Meet the People
– FIELD ASSISTANT –
HESTELLE VAN RENSBERG
– RESIDENT –
– FARMER –