Wild Honeybush as a driver for holistic fynbos veld management

Photo Credit: Green Trust

Honeybush grows in the Langkloof Valley, between the Tsitsikamma and Kouga Mountains in the Eastern Cape.  It is harvested to make a refreshing tea that is rich in antioxidants. Honeybush has a softer taste than our well-known rooibos tea. Unlike rooibos however, honeybush is difficult to cultivate, and of the approximately 390 tons of honeybush tea produced in the Langkloof every year, 80% is harvested from the wild. This calls for sustainable harvesting, together with holistic management of the Tsitsikamma and Kouga fynbos mountain area in which the harvesting occurs.

The Tsitsikamma and Kouga mountains are the catchments for the Kouga and Krom Rivers and the Kouga and Churchill Dams, which are strategic water source areas for Port Elizabeth and are critical for both water security and biodiversity in the region.  This is why the WWF Nedbank Green Trust has partnered with Living Lands to improve honeybush harvesting and veld management of the farming land owned by Langkloof farmers in the Tsitsikamma and Kouga mountain areas and so preserve this crucial water source area.

Landscape-wide conservation in South Africa depends on strong partnerships with landowners. By focusing on honeybush and its landscape the project team aims to increase awareness of, and conservation efforts in the Tsitsikamma and Kouga mountains. These are being increasingly infested with invasive alien trees, which intensify fire risks. Our project approach is that these unique wild areas could be managed more efficiently while providing a product, the honeybush, that creates income for the farmers who own the land and income for the harvesters who collect the honeybush in this incredibly rugged terrain.

The project is supported by the Honeybush Community of Practice and is working closely with academic researchers who specialise in honeybush, including Gillian McGregor (Rhodes University), Annelise Schutte-Vlok (CapeNature) and Dr Shirley Pierce Cowling, who led a one-year research project funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust on honeybush and the associated harvesting and cultivation issues in the Eastern Cape. She completed the project at the end of 2015.

We are also working closely with the farmers who own the land and with the harvesters to develop the sustainable-harvesting plans. Many of the harvesters have been gathering honeybush for generations and are exceptionally knowledgeable about the plant and the mountain terrain.  The harvesters are helping us to put together the resource assessments and they have also been helping with the plans for the removal of the invasive alien species. This project aims to demonstrate how valuable these wild areas are, and to boost water and biodiversity conservation and the livelihoods of the farmers and harvesters through this beautiful wild product.

For further information visit www.livinglands.co.za