Conservation collaboration in the Overberg

Credit Justin de Klerk photography

Spanning 1,2 million hectares, the Western Cape’s Overberg is home to the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI), which involves private landowners and farmers  partnering with government and non-profit organisations in a multisector conservation drive. In addition to undertaking sustainable farming and fynbos harvesting, they conserve water, protect the natural environment, grow green jobs and create corridors for the movement of wildlife.

ABI was established 15 years ago and now has close to 50 organisations as members. In 2020 the WWF Nedbank Green Trust came on board to fund ABI’s planning for the next 10 years, including several large landscape issues that will be managed in an integrated way through key projects. One of the projects is a water fund for the Overberg that aims to increase long-term water sustainability at all levels. For this project ABI is partnering with The Nature Conservancy (a global environment non-profit organisation) and using learnings from the Greater Cape Town Water Fund.

The coordination of ABI is done by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, established in 1999 and funded by the Global Environment Facility to promote sustainable land use and fynbos harvesting in the region.

Next to agriculture, wild-fynbos harvesting is the second-biggest employer in rural Overberg and, together with the harvesters, ABI have established a framework for a value chain of socially and environmentally sustainable harvesting that the mainly international markets require.

ABI has made considerable inroads over the past 15 years in its efforts to:

  • manage the natural capital by, for example, promoting the sustainable harvesting of fynbos in the vulnerable Cape Floral Kingdom across 75 000 ha and keeping alien invasives at bay across 45 000 ha;
  • enhance the social capital and the wellbeing of local communities through partnerships, cooperation, skills and education;
  • and grow the financial capital by raising the funds needed to develop and sustain ABI, grow the green economy and increase green jobs.

This is an exciting initiative for the WWF Nedbank Green Trust to be involved in as it takes cross-sectoral collaboration to the scale required to manage large landscapes and partnerships collectively. This is what is required for sustainable land management in South Africa going forward.

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