Conservation Champions: Reducing the Cape Winelands’ footprint

Posted by Taylah Strauss on 27 October 2021

The early 2000s saw the rapid growth of the wine industry and the subsequent vineyard footprint was bordering on threatening habitats.

This burgeon in the wine industry gave rise to a powerful partnership between the wine industry and the conservation sector. According to WWF, 95% of South Africa’s wines are produced in the Cape Winelands; this increase in the industry had a huge impact on the environment.

Not only that, but the Cape Winelands is also the home of two biodiversity hotspots that aren’t found anywhere else on the globe – the Succulent Karoo and the Cape Floral kingdom. This, combined with the threat of climate change has created the need to reduce wine farms’ impact on the environment and conserve biodiversity.

In an interview with Daily Maverick, conservationist for Vondeling Wines Bridget Johnsen said that 35 plants on the farm are on the endangered list, eight of which are critical. This problem is compounded by the threat of climate change to ecosystems.

‘Increased frequency and intensity of fires makes it vital that the fuel and heat generated in fires involving alien vegetation is kept to a minimum, to minimise impacts of too-frequent or uncontrollable wildfires,’ says Johnsen, ‘The forecast of more droughts and increased daily temperatures will seriously impact the wildfire risk and water resources available for agriculture in this already water-constrained region.’

WWF consists of advisory support from experts and conservationists on how to improve farming techniques in a manner that results in reduced strain on biodiversity, as well as sustainability. By means of a voluntary membership model, WWF works closely with environmental leaders in South Africa’s wine industry. They are known as the Conservation Champions, and commit to biodiversity-friendly and regenerative farming practices.

Together, WWF and Conservation Champions create tangible plans to achieve these goals. These efforts also support the wine industry environmental certification scheme. This underscores the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) sustainability seal, which is present on the neck of wine bottles if they adhere to these efforts.

Not only that, but Conservation Champions can use the distinctive sugarbird and protea logo on their products, another indicator of sustainability and a product that was made conscious of the environmental needs. Both the IPW’s sustainability seal and the sugarbird and protea logo attracts customers, and thus encourages more and more farmers to join in on conservation efforts.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons


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