Potato Farmers Promote Biodiversity

by CapeNature

Sandveld – Potato farmers from this region, responsible for producing the bulk of the Western Cape’s favourite staple food, have just announced a ground-breaking biodiversity project. This project aims to protect the precious Sandveld fynbos and dwindling water supplies, and wants to secure the future of the potato industry in the region. The Sandveld produces approximately 22 million 10 kg pockets of potatoes per year.

Farmers, retailers and the conservation sector have joined hands to develop industry-wide guidelines to ensure sustainable potato production as well as the conservation of natural resources. The guidelines are contained in a manual entitled Biodiversity Best Practice Guidelines for Potato Production in the Sandveld, which was launched today.

The need for a manual of this nature became evident two years ago following an increase in water consumption, the increased clearing of natural pasture, and the prevalence of negative perceptions regarding the sustainability of potato production in this area.

The Sandveld forms part of the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) and is home to a number of rare, endangered and indigenous plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. This delicate biodiversity had become threatened by potato production in the Sandveld.

The GCBC is known as a “live in, work in” biodiversity corridor. It was established as a landscape initiative to minimise the effect of climate change by supporting the free movement of plant and animal species. This is achieved through the voluntary participation of land owners, communities and the private sector to expand conservation areas on privately owned land. In cooperation with Potatoes SA’s producers, the GCBC also aims to establish a biodiversity-driven economy in the Sandveld in the long term through the implementation of sustainable potato production. CapeNature, the GCBC implementation agency, has found a partner in Potatoes SA to make this biodiversity initiative a reality.

The task team responsible for the manual on biodiversity guidelines includes representatives of CapeNature, the GCBC, the potato industry, retail groups and other stakeholders. The team approached a consortium of scientists to develop scientific agricultural principles that could be implemented in a sensitive area like the Sandveld.

The manual will now be used to timeously implement conservation plans in the Sandveld to enable farmers in this area to follow sustainable production practices. Sandveld potato producers supply large volumes of potatoes to outlets like McDonalds and Wimpy.

The manual has already been accepted and ratified by all stakeholders and was recently presented to the chairman of the task team and potato farmer, Mr Joos Engelbrecht, at a symbolic presentation ceremony. It is envisaged that these agricultural principles will now be implemented by producers in the Sandveld.

In order to give the process immediate momentum, Mr Dawie Scholtz was appointed as project manager. He will assist a core group of producers with the implementation of the guidelines. The aim is to certify a number of producers as biodiversity-compliant producers in the next 12 months.

Various government departments will be involved on an ongoing basis during the implementation phase, as many of the proposed actions require support and information from these departments. The government departments are excited about this development, as they welcome and encourage initiatives of this nature by producers.

During a recent press launch Scholtz mentioned that every potato producer in the Sandveld to whom he has spoken about the project has reacted positively and has indicated that they would like to start the implementation phase as soon as possible.

According to Mr Johan Burger of CapeNature this initiative is a huge step forward to ensure the conservation of the Sandveld’s unique biodiversity, while simultaneously benefiting potato producers.

For more information, contact the project manager, Mr Dawie Scholz, at Potatoes SA at: dawie-mail@telkomsa.net, cell: 082 824 2975

ENDS

Issued by:
Liesl Baadjies
Public Relations Officer
CapeNature
Contact: tel: + 27 21 659 3446 fax: +27 86 669 4814 cell: +27 72 488 6768
E-mail: lbaadjies@capenature.co.za
Website: www.capenature.co.za

And

Tessa Mildenhall
Communications Manager Conservation International
South African Hotspots Programme
Private Bag X7
Claremont, 7735
Tel: 021-799 8655
Fax: 021-762 6838
Cell: 082 4152902

Published in Care for Nature

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