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WWF conservationists are regenerative farming champs

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The WWF conservation champions strive to enhance natural benefits to agricultural practices in a given landscape by conserving endangered species and reaping their eco-friendly benefits.Photo: Heleen Rossouw
The WWF conservation champions strive to enhance natural benefits to agricultural practices in a given landscape by conserving endangered species and reaping their eco-friendly benefits.Photo: Heleen Rossouw

Hearing the crunch in the dirt as you walk through lush vineyards braided with fynbos, surrounded by aromas of nature’s harmony, is a divine delight. What makes it even better is knowing that landscape cultivates a healthy and sustainable ecosystem.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) celebrated a golden 50th milestone this September, with 50 Cape Winelands farms now recognised as WWF Conservation Champions: leaders in the international wine sector and custodians of two major global biodiversity hotspots.

Ninety-five percent of South African wine is grown in the Cape Winelands, which overlaps two major global biodiversity hotspots – the Cape Floral Kingdom and the Succulent Karoo. Both are unique habitats for many rare and endangered species which, if left unprotected, may be lost forever.

Fortunately, South Africa’s wine farms from Constantia to Robertson and from Stellenbosch to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley are stepping up as true custodians of the land, with 50 of these wine farms now being recognised as WWF Conservation Champions, following the recent inclusion of Diemersdal (Durbanville) and Cavalli Estate (Stellenbosch).

“We are thrilled to welcome these newcomers to the WWF Conservation Champion programme,” comments Shelly Fuller, Manager of WWF’s Fruit and Wine programme. “Both have met stringent criteria and shown exceptional commitment to sustainable practices, while safeguarding endangered species in unique habitats.”

It is wonderful to achieve this golden milestone of 50 champions, especially considering the turbulence faced by the industry. It proves that sustainable farming in harmony with nature, expansion into eco-tourism activities and conservation of local biodiversity are winning strategies that benefit people and nature.”

The 50 WWF Conservation Champions are acknowledged environmental leaders in the wine industry, for their exceptional commitment to regenerative farming practices, including conserving natural systems and biodiversity on their land, implementing responsible production practices and spearheading innovations in water and energy efficiency.

Collectively, these 50 WWF conservation champions own 43 000 ha of land, of which 23 000 ha is conserved as a pristine part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This achievement is due to the unique working relationship between WWF and Cape wine farmers.

The programme, facilitated by the WWF, supports wine farms in their conservation endeavours through advisory support and assistance with setting targets and prioritising actions to fix their most pressing environmental risks. The 50 farms work closely with WWF undertaking annual assessments to ensure they meet the specifications required of a Conservation Champion.

“Even during these turbulent and unprecedented times, with multiple lockdowns and bans on sale of alcohol, the WWF Conservation Champion wine farms have maintained their exceptional conservation commitment to farm in harmony with nature,” concludes Fuller.

Support conservation champions

Each WWF Conservation Champion wine farm has a unique sustainability story: many have set aside land for conservation; rehabilitated vast sections of the Cape Floral Kingdom through alien invasive clearing projects; reduced water usage; and implemented energy-efficiency solutions. Many wine farms have also diversified their activity offerings with sustainability initiatives to include walking, hiking and mountain biking trails, outdoor dining, bird watching, eco-lodging, picnics, nature drives and “vinisafari’s” to attract more visitors.

Spot these champs by looking for the distinctive sugarbird and protea logo on wine bottles when purchasing wine from your local retailer.

Wine lovers, locals and tourists can also download the Champion Wine Guide App at www.championwineguide.co.za to find special offers, explore wine farms and browse through nature-based experiences and ecotourism activities.

For more information about the prestigious WWF Conservation Champions programme, or to find out if your favourite wine is a WWF Conservation Champion, visit our website at www.wwf.org.za or follow us on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. #ConservationChampions @followthesugarbird.

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