Baviaanskloof – Langkloof, South Africa
The area stretching from South Africa’s Baviaanskloof to Langkloof encompasses three important water catchments around the city of Port Elizabeth – water that makes up 70% of the city’s water supply and is incredibly important for the region’s food production. But decades of unsustainable land management, changing climate and invasive plants and trees has accelerated the impact of droughts and floods, both in the catchments and downstream in Port Elizabeth. In 2014, Commonland formed a comprehensive partnership with Grounded and Living Lands to explore restoration opportunities and identify business opportunities around large-scale landscape regeneration. Five years on, the economic, social and ecological returns that the 4 Returns framework has brought to the Baviaanskloof offer a restoration case study for others to follow.
Landscape regeneration doesn’t happen overnight – in fact, it takes a minimumof 20 years (or one generation) to restore struggling ecosystems. Yet since teaming up with Living Lands and Grounded five years ago, a lot has changed in the Baviaanskloof and Langkloof catchments. New businesses have been created, agricultural practices have changed for the better, traditional goat farming practices have become more sustainable and significant strides have been made in the restoration of degraded hillsides.
The list of activities underway in the region is long – from community and farmer engagement, to alien invasive clearing and the planting of indigenous crops, to alluvial fan restoration and sustainable harvesting of indigenous crops. Among the economic impulses, there is regenerative agriculture and the cultivation of crops both exotic and indigenous, as well as the processing, marketing and distribution of dried and distilled products. All of these positively contribute to a healthy ecosystem, not draining away its biodiversity and resources.
In 2014, the partners committed to developing business cases that would facilitate landscape restoration using the 4 Returns framework. The first of these business cases, the Baviaanskloof Development Company, focuses on essential oils production as an additional income source for farmers in the area. Commonland is a shareholder in the company and continues to actively support and partner by developing new business cases and interventions, research and development and engaging and mobilizing farmers and community members.
In the coming years, the partners believe their activities will create some 500 jobs and indirectly benefit up to 1 million people in the region.