Target 6: Conservation of production lands


Initiatives in place to ensure the sustainable management of production lands consistent with the conservation of plant diversity

Contributors: D. Raimondo, R. Stanway & K. Maze


Working with the production sector through mainstreaming projects has been a major focus of biodiversity conservation work in South Africa over the last 10 years. While there is still much work to do, significant successes have been achieved. Agriculture, specifically crop cultivation, is the most severe threat to plant diversity in South Africa threatening over 1 400 plant species. Much work has been done since 2004 to work within the agricultural sector with Biodiversity and Business Initiatives (BBIs) set up for wine, potatoes, rooibos tea, sugar, indigenous cut flowers and fruit producers. Overgrazing by livestock also poses a significant threat to plant diversity and a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and biome-based mainstreaming projects have worked on initiatives with the red meat industry.

All of these agriculture-based initiatives involve developing and implementing best-practice farming guidelines to minimise the impact of faming on biodiversity, as well as providing training on a range of land management techniques (e.g. monitoring veld condition, grazing and burning plans, annual farm assessments etc.). Within several of these initiatives, and driven by the broader conservation sector, incentives are provided to farm owners of high biodiversity land to formally conserve land via biodiversity stewardship programmes. Many of these initiatives allow farms to become members of the initiative. By so doing they sign up to industry standards developed to safeguard biodiversity and are then subject to forms of auditing. Members may also receive incentives in the form of market access, marketing materials and improved consumer awareness. In addition, dedicated extension services are provided that assist with assessing conservation values of land and in the development of environmental management plans.

In addition to the BBI approach, provincial conservation agencies have facilitated biodiversity mainstreaming into production landscapes through a formal stewardship approach. In this case, through a spatial prioritisation process, parcels of land with intact vegetation of high biodiversity value have been identified, and formal stewardship agreements negotiated. In some cases, this mainstreaming has taken a ‘corridor’ approach, with a patchwork of agricultural land and high biodiversity natural land falling under one large landscape-level conservancy or corridor, administered by the provincial nature conservation agency, but with close collaboration with provincial agriculture and industry bodies.

Much progress has been made by these initiatives, for example the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative has ensured that over 140 000 hectares of natural area has been conserved since the projects inception in 2004. This means that the South African wine industry’s conservation footprint is well in excess of its current vineyard footprint of 101 568 hectares. Another excellent initiative has been the promotion of sustainable wildflower harvesting in the Western Cape. About 60% of total fynbos flower retail in the Western Cape originates from natural populations. In the main area where flower harvesting takes place, the Agulhas Plan, a Sustainable Harvesting Programme has been established by stakeholders involved in fynbos harvesting, including Flower Valley Conservation Trust, CapeNature and the fynbos industry. This includes a Code of Best Practice for Wild Harvesters, for landowners and harvesters to follow, with guidance on how to sustainably harvest different species of Fynbos. A vulnerability index identifies which indigenous plant species have restricted distributions and life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to over-harvesting. Species that score high on the vulnerability index should not be picked. Landowners and harvesters who are part of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme receive extension support from the NGO, Flower Valley Conservation Trust, as they undertake a journey to become sustainable by acting responsibly in the environment, and by meeting social and labour best practise standards. The programme provides a baseline assessment of the landowner or harvesting team’s fynbos practices and provides capacity building to meet those best practice standards set out in the code. Support to monitor and collect information on harvesting is also provided through the programme. The aim is to prepare the operation to be audit ready, for when the market demands such an audit. Much of the product is exported to high-end supermarkets in the UK.

Within the plantation forestry sector, a number of mainstreaming tools have been developed by the biome-based Grasslands Programme. These enable improved decision-making over where future afforestation occurs and how open (natural) areas are managed within the forestry production landscape. The tools include ‘Guidelines for Grasslands Management in the Forestry Sector’, ‘Environmental Guidelines for Commercial Forestry in South Africa’, a ‘Biodiversity Screening Tool’ and a ‘Conservation Planning Tool’.

Despite the progress made over the past 10 years, a number of challenges remain. The Green Choice Alliance, a communications network of various BBIs led by Conservation South Africa, put in place a monitoring framework to assess the effectiveness of BBIs. An audit conducted in 2013, comparing natural areas in 2006 and 2010 within the footprint of the various initiatives, found that extensive transformation of natural habitat was still occurring with much of this taking place within Critically Endangered ecosystems and in areas identified in biodiversity plans as Critical Biodiversity Areas. In addition, not enough progress has been achieved in securing threatened ecosystems for conservation. Areas secured for conservation after 10 years of work represent a very small fraction of the potential land available for conservation within the footprint of properties owned by BBI members.

Target 6 outcomes for 2020

6.1.     Mainstream biodiversity into agricultural legislation, planning and implementation.

The main factors impeding biodiversity conservation within production lands focusing on the agricultural sector were identified through a participatory workshop undertaken in 2014, which involved key agricultural partners (Agri SA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheres (DAFF)); and partners with experience working with the agricultural production sector (the United National Development Programme (UNDP), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Conservation South Africa (CSA), the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the World Wide Fund for Nature – South Africa branch (WWF-SA)).  The major barriers identified included un-streamlined regulatory compliance, and limited institutional capacity for extension services and enforcement. Particularly problematic is a misalignment between requirements for permits under the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA, Act No. 43 of 1983) and for environmental authorisations under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA, Act No. 107 of 1998) for listed agricultural activities. The listed activities and timeframes of these regulatory frameworks differ, resulting in challenges to implementation, as well as high non-compliance and poor enforcement. These issues need to be addressed over the next five years.

6.2.     Capacity of agricultural extension services strengthened and enforcement capacity improved.

A number of large government initiatives exist to support agriculture in South Africa, including Soil Conservation Schemes, the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme, LandCare Area-Wide Planning and Natural Resource Management programmes. These programmes tend to be implemented without taking biodiversity conservation considerations into account. As a water-scarce country, the use of water is a high priority for government. Irrigated agriculture is the largest single user of water in South Africa, consuming 60% of available supply (DWA 2013). In a country where 98% of our water supply is already being used, where a substantial proportion of our globally unique biodiversity essentially falls within the custodianship of agricultural landowners and where food security is an ongoing issue, there is a critical need for the integrated management of water and biodiversity in agricultural practises.

6.3.     Private sector leadership mainstreams biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability through international and national standard frameworks.

Private sector–led self-regulation is implemented through the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), with more than 12 000 member companies, of which approximately 80% have agriculturally related activities in food and beverage production. This implementation will be enabled by the recently developed Environmental Sustainability Compliance Programme, which was co-developed by the conservation sector and provides a locally relevant, but globally benchmarked standard for environmental compliance across 11 performance areas. One of these performance areas is land-use and biodiversity, whereby companies are required as a minimum to comply with the legal instruments of the country, and as best practice to set ambitious performance targets with regards to land-use and biodiversity.

Locally, Fruit South Africa and WWF have developed a Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) environmental management system; a best practice standard aligned to the same global benchmark as the CGCSA framework, with in-depth emphasis on the environmental aspects of sustainability on farms.

6.4      Existing Business and Biodiversity Initiatives (BBIs) supported to mainstream biodiversity into production landscapes.

It remains a priority to continue work with existing BBIs in South Africa. Both the Green Choice Alliance and SANBI provide overarching communications and governance support to existing BBIs in South Africa and will ensure that this work continues.

Target 6: Initiatives in place to ensure the sustainable management of production lands, consistent with the conservation of plant diversity
Outcome Activities Responsible stakeholders Timeframe
6.1. Mainstream biodiversity into agricultural planning and implementation within priority catchments. 6.1.1. Biodiversity mainstreamed into the agricultural practices within eight priority catchments where strategic water resources and high plant diversity overlap. SANBI, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT); Conservation South Africa (CSA); AGRI SA, WWF-SA. 2020
6.1.2. Integrated land-use planning projects developed and implemented at catchment scale through multi-stakeholder partnerships. SANBI, DAFF; EWT; CSA; AGRI SA, WWF-SA. 2020
6.1.3. Large-scale government programmes coordinated by the departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Water & Sanitation (DWS) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) are aligned to support sustainable agriculture practices. SANBI, DAFF; EWT; CSA; AGRI SA, WWF-SA. 2020
6.2. Capacity of agricultural extension services strengthened and enforcement capacity improved. 6.2.1. Capacity of agricultural extension services strengthened within priority catchment areas through working directly with extension officials and focussing on enforcement requirements. SANBI, DAFF; EWT; CSA; AGRI SA, WWF-SA. 2020
6.2.2. Agricultural skills development at tertiary level addresses integration of relevant biodiversity, including basic legislative issues. SANBI, DAFF; EWT; CSA; AGRI SA, WWF-SA. 2020
6.3. Private sector leadership mainstreams biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability through international and national standard frameworks. 6.3. Biodiversity mainstreamed into 10% of the South African private sector agricultural component through implementation of relevant national and international frameworks. Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA); CSA; Cambridge Program for Sustainability Leadership; private sector agricultural stakeholders; WWF-SA; Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA); Fruit SA. 2020

6.4 Existing Business and Biodiversity Initiatives supported to mainstream biodiversity into production landscapes.


6.4. Continue to work with business and industry in production landscapes, focussing on:

1) Integrating biodiversity into production and service standards and guidelines.

2) Incorporating biodiversity and environmental management objectives in area-wide plans and farm planning processes.

3) Deepening relationships between conservation and national and provincial departments of Agriculture, including collaborative efforts to strengthen capacity for extension and enforcement functions.

4) Mainstream existing biodiversity and production tools.

CapeNature; WWF; CSA; Flower Valley Conservation Trust; SANBI; industry bodies (Red Meat Producers Organization; Wines of South Africa; Fruit SA; Grassfed SA; Mohair SA; SA Ostrich Business Chamber). 2020