The Langkloof is risk prone, with regular droughts, floods and wildfires making life difficult for those who live in the area. This coupled with the loss of wetlands that act as a natural water buffer and the invasion of alien tree species, has altered the catchment areas, affecting the water supply for everyone downstream. As a result Port Elizabeth, one of the largest cities in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, now faces severe water shortages regularly. Situated in a world biodiversity hotspot in the Cape Floristic Region, the Langkloof is South Africa’s apple growing region, and is also home to several indigenous Honeybush species.
In the mountains of the Langkloof, wild honeybush numbers are gradually declining. Invasive species such as black wattle and pines are rapidly taking over certain areas whilst pushing out indigenous species at a staggering rate. In the valley, apples are being farmed, using high levels of pesticides leading to water pollution and health risks for those living in the area. Apples use high volumes of water and the area has been facing water shortages and droughts over the past 20 years. Therefore, more and more farmers are seeking ways to diversify from apple farming by cultivating crops which are less sensitive to environmental risks and need less pesticides.
Grounded is working with Living Lands to implement a holistic Landscape Business Plan using Commonlands’ Four Returns model. Our 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. We established a Langkloof Honeybush Company which will process and market the honeybush which is harvested and cultivated in line with these principles. We are actively seeking access to premium markets for these products. The project aims to bring balance back to the Langkloof and increase the area’s natural biodiversity.
The Langkloof Honeybush Company aims to work with local farmers and harvesters to produce high quality, sustainable honeybush tea from various species. Cyclopia intermedia (“berg tee”) is most often found on the high south facing slopes of both the Tsitsikamma and Kouga mountains and is under severe pressure from drought, fire and over-harvesting. It is a sustainably wild-harvested premium tea with full-bodied flavour.
Cyclopia subternata (“vlei tee”) grows in the mountain valleys and is a robust species to cultivate. Cultivation of honeybush takes the pressure of the wild-harvested varietals. Subternata is a high quality tea with a distinctly different colour and taste profile to intermedia.
We have made great strides so far and are now focusing on market development in order to ensure that our Langkloof teas will be sold into appropriate local and international commercial channels.
In 2018, we worked with Living Lands, landowners and harvesters to create the establishment of a Langkloof Honeybush Association. The Association will be formally established in 2019. The goal is to promote knowledge sharing and build a network in the area around honeybush cultivation and wild harvesting. Living Lands is also busy completing the first Sustainable Harvesting Plans. We are currently running our first pilot projects to process and sell the tea coming from those farms. These two efforts combined will prepare us to work with bigger volumes of sustainably wild harvested tea over the course of 2019. In parallel, we are busy setting up a seedling nursery and Living Lands is capturing data on the best practices regarding the cultivation of honeybush. This will allow us to focus on the promotion of sustainable honeybush cultivation in 2019 as well.
Grounded established the Langkloof Honeybush Company and supports it with the sales of its products, through access to capital and financial management and by performing the role of Managing Director of the company.