WWF-South Africa’s sustainable agriculture team does essential work with commercial and communal farmers. Whether working with wine producers, commercial dairy and sheep farmers, smallholder cattle farmers and subsistence vegetable growers, the aim is to achieve better land-use planning and farming solutions that benefit people and nature. The team promotes regenerative farming and agroecology. This work is a response to address high water use and the negative effects of our food system, which, while productive, has done more damage to the natural environment than any other human enterprise. The team focuses on farmers in places of national importance, including strategic water source areas and conservation-worthy biomes. WWF, together with SANParks, is championing efforts on the ground for the development of the proposed 30 000 hectare high-altitude NE Cape Grasslands National Park in the north Eastern Cape near Lesotho. The national park has a novel approach because it is in a working landscape where agricultural activities, including livestock grazing, take place. The area is rich in endemic species, including the critically endangered bearded vulture, Cape vulture and crested crane. Grasslands are also where most of the country’s water sources are found and its wetlands act as sponges to retain rainwater. Another success is the WWF Conservation Champions initiative in the Cape winelands in which two biodiversity hotspots occur — the Succulent Karoo and Cape Floral Kingdom. Today, 60 wine farms are environmental leaders in the industry. Collectively they own 48 156 hectares of land, of which 25 626ha are conserved. The team’s aim is to ensure farmers have the knowledge to contribute to a sustainable future, thus addressing food security, climate change and nature loss.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
- The conservation wine champions programme.
- Regenerative farming by smallholder and commercial farmers.
Please provide specific examples of how your/your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
The conservation wine champions programme works with 60 wine farms to secure biodiversity in viticulture and protect the Cape Floral kingdom.
WWF-SA has well developed agroecology for smallholder farmers in strategic water source areas and protected conservation areas.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
Biodiversity loss, water scarcity, high levels of consumption and climate change
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
The cost of not tackling the environmental problems now will cost us more in the future. We will lose vital species for nature and people and we risk our economic and social success