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Conservation efforts by wine industry lauded

| Wine and liquor

Conservation efforts in South Africa’s wine industry have been so successful that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-South Africa) feels there is no longer a need to educate SA’s wine farmers on this issue, the environmental organisation said.

From now on the WWF-South Africa is endorsing the industry’s "Sustainable Wines South Africa" seal, found on the neck of wine bottles, as indication enough that the wine estate is environmentally responsible, said WWF-South Africa agricultural programme manager Inge Kotze. This would make things easier for consumers.

The South African wine industry’s conservation efforts form one of the four major pillars of Wines of South Africa’s marketing message, said the association’s spokesman André Morgenthal. Wines of South Africa is a not-for-profit industry organisation which promotes the export of all South African wine in key international markets. The other three pillars are history, the beautiful environment and South Africa’s people and hospitality.

The fact that the country’s wine farmers, once they signed up to the WWF-South Africa biodiversity programme, were legally bound to improve and maintain conservation on their farms was a world first, he said. "We have it on paper. There are 100,000ha under vineyards, and 140,000ha under (private) conservation on wine farms," Mr Morgenthal said.

"The WWF-South Africa initiative is very important. It played a big role in sensitising our farmers. Ten years ago the conservationists came to the industry concerned because 95% of the Cape Floral Kingdom was in private ownership," he said.

The conservation turnaround in the Cape Winelands was "amazing", he said. "A lot of people have invested a lot of money into the rehabilitation of the natural environment on their farms."

Under its biodiversity and wine initiative, the WWF-South Africa has for a decade worked with farmers to raise awareness and industry support for the protection and good management of the Cape Floral Kingdom, said Ms Kotze. However, the "initial aims and objectives have been superseded with elevated levels of awareness and action to conserve and protect the natural heritage of these global diversity hotspots in the Cape winelands."

The Cape Floristic Region is the smallest of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world, and an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism. It is home to more than 9,000 plant species, of which 69% are endemic. Much of this diversity is associated with the fynbos biome.

Ms Kotze said work with winelands farmers would continue, but focus would shift to address "issues at landscape level across catchments, conservancies and local wine regions. Many of the WWF-South Africa’s biodiversity and wine initiative members have also been expressing the desire to co-ordinate their efforts towards collective management of their environmental risks".

Ten years ago there were no members of the initiative, now there are 240 (88% of the industry), 29 of them "champions", Ms Kotze said. A member is IPW (integrated production of wine)-registered and meets 65% of IPW criteria, a "champion" meets 75% of IPW criteria.

One "champion" is Spier Wine Farm, outside Stellenbosch. Human resources manager Richard Newton-King, who has been involved in the estate’s IPW activities from the start, said that help from the WWF-South Africa’s extension officers was invaluable in the estate’s "move from as best as we can to world best practice", especially because there was a lot of legislative change to deal with. There is still lots to do ... I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect. You can’t draw a line."

Under the initiative wine farms commit to sustained control of invasive alien plants, wetland and river restoration and rehabilitation, waste management, "environmentally friendly" control of damage-causing animals, collaborative fire management, to participate in landowner conservancies and ecotourism ventures.

Ms Kotze said just after democracy came to South Africa an enormous amount of legislation was introduced, including the National Environmental Management Act, the National Water Act and the Agricultural Act. "There were four to five years of dramatic change."

Mr Newton-King said the improvement of biodiversity on the farm over the about seven years that Spier had been a biodiversity "champion" was visible. It took more than a year of careful monitoring, evidence submission and audits to become a "champion".

"It’s a farm. We are responsible to the people who live and work on the farm, and around it," he said.

March 30 2015, 19:45





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CONSERVATION efforts in South Africa’s wine industry have been so successful that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-South Africa) feels there is no longer a need to educate SA’s wine farmers on this issue, the environmental organisation said on Monday.

From now on the WWF-South Africa is endorsing the industry’s "Sustainable Wines South Africa" seal, found on the neck of wine bottles, as indication enough that the wine estate is environmentally responsible, said WWF-South Africa agricultural programme manager Inge Kotze. This would make things easier for consumers.

The South African wine industry’s conservation efforts form one of the four major pillars of Wines of South Africa’s marketing message, said the association’s spokesman André Morgenthal. Wines of South Africa is a not-for-profit industry organisation which promotes the export of all South African wine in key international markets. The other three pillars are history, the beautiful environment and South Africa’s people and hospitality.

The fact that the country’s wine farmers, once they signed up to the WWF-South Africa biodiversity programme, were legally bound to improve and maintain conservation on their farms was a world first, he said. "We have it on paper. There are 100,000ha under vineyards, and 140,000ha under (private) conservation on wine farms," Mr Morgenthal said.

"The WWF-South Africa initiative is very important. It played a big role in sensitising our farmers. Ten years ago the conservationists came to the industry concerned because 95% of the Cape Floral Kingdom was in private ownership," he said.

The conservation turnaround in the Cape Winelands was "amazing", he said. "A lot of people have invested a lot of money into the rehabilitation of the natural environment on their farms."

Under its biodiversity and wine initiative, the WWF-South Africa has for a decade worked with farmers to raise awareness and industry support for the protection and good management of the Cape Floral Kingdom, said Ms Kotze. However, the "initial aims and objectives have been superseded with elevated levels of awareness and action to conserve and protect the natural heritage of these global diversity hotspots in the Cape winelands."

The Cape Floristic Region is the smallest of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world, and an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism. It is home to more than 9,000 plant species, of which 69% are endemic. Much of this diversity is associated with the fynbos biome.

Ms Kotze said work with winelands farmers would continue, but focus would shift to address "issues at landscape level across catchments, conservancies and local wine regions. Many of the WWF-South Africa’s biodiversity and wine initiative members have also been expressing the desire to co-ordinate their efforts towards collective management of their environmental risks".

Ten years ago there were no members of the initiative, now there are 240 (88% of the industry), 29 of them "champions", Ms Kotze said. A member is IPW (integrated production of wine)-registered and meets 65% of IPW criteria, a "champion" meets 75% of IPW criteria.

One "champion" is Spier Wine Farm, outside Stellenbosch. Human resources manager Richard Newton-King, who has been involved in the estate’s IPW activities from the start, said that help from the WWF-South Africa’s extension officers was invaluable in the estate’s "move from as best as we can to world best practice", especially because there was a lot of legislative change to deal with. There is still lots to do ... I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect. You can’t draw a line."

Under the initiative wine farms commit to sustained control of invasive alien plants, wetland and river restoration and rehabilitation, waste management, "environmentally friendly" control of damage-causing animals, collaborative fire management, to participate in landowner conservancies and ecotourism ventures.

Ms Kotze said just after democracy came to South Africa an enormous amount of legislation was introduced, including the National Environmental Management Act, the National Water Act and the Agricultural Act. "There were four to five years of dramatic change."

Mr Newton-King said the improvement of biodiversity on the farm over the about seven years that Spier had been a biodiversity "champion" was visible. It took more than a year of careful monitoring, evidence submission and audits to become a "champion".

"It’s a farm. We are responsible to the people who live and work on the farm, and around it," he said.

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