In response to the challenge of developing more sustainable agriculture and fisheries and to reduce habitat destruction, a number of Business and Biodiversity Initiatives have emerged across South Africa, particularly in the Western Cape. The initiatives aim to put production on a more sustainable footing by conserving agricultural resources of soil, water and grazing while demonstrating that all production landscapes are dependent on biodiversity for the ecosystem services they provide. A recent study has shown that the initiatives in the Western Cape comprise over 400 000 ha under better land management and contribute to many of the nation’s conservation targets.
The GreenChoice Alliance has several tools for managing farms according to ecological, sustainable and integrated principles. To learn more, visit the GreenChoice Alliance website.
A number of retailers across South Africa have launched conservation-related campaigns, while others have set up mechanisms whereby their suppliers are rewarded for farming sustainably.
Stewardship on agricultural land
The Cape Stewardship website aims to give environmentally conscious, private landowners the tools — information and guidance — to be true custodians of the natural heritage of the Western Cape. Learn more at http://www.capestewardship.co.za/
Producers, with the help of the conservation sector, have established exciting ways to combine conservation into their production systems. Since the inception of these initiatives, there has been a shift from a focus on conservation alone to a holistic one that includes conservation, sustainable agricultural practices, social equity and financial management.
The citrus industry is the second largest earner of foreign exchange through South African agricultural exports. The industry generates R3 billion per annum and exports 54 percent of total production, making it the third largest exporter of citrus in the world after Spain and the USA.
While many of South Africa’s key fish resources are well managed and in a healthy condition, many years of overexploitation and poor management have caused the abundance of other species to drop to dangerously low levels.
The South African cut-flower industry contributes considerably to SA’s economy and employment, particularly in the Western Cape, and has shown significant growth in the past ten years. The country produces half the world’s wild-cut proteas, employing 25,000 people and generating total revenue of approximately R82 million per annum.
Beekeepers have always played a critical role in agriculture, contributing to crop pollination and the development of products worth billions of South African rands.
Livestock farming for meat production is the largest agricultural sector in South Africa, generating over R6.7 billion per annum.
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Pecan nuts and macadamias are produced predominantly in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga and groundnuts are farmed extensively in the Limpopo, Free State and North West provinces.
Potato production is the core economic activity and employer in the Sandveld region, producing an annual turnover of R400 million and employing 3,250 people. High input costs and challenging farming and environmental conditions make maintaining a viable enterprise difficult for farmers in the area.
The rooibos industry has seen an exponential increase in demand over the years and its cultivation is now posing a threat not only to Fynbos vegetation in general, but also to wild rooibos in the area.
Although cane production in South Africa declined 4 percent in 2007/8, the country maintains the 5th largest per capita consumption rates in the world. Sugar cane is one of the heaviest water consumers of any crop, placing significant pressure on natural water resources.
In response to the threat that encroaching vineyards were having on the Cape Floristic Region and the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative was launched in 2004.
Current wool production practices pose certain pressures on the environment. Overgrazing of livestock and desertification reduce rangeland productivity, which may reduce production capacity and has increased land degradation.