Environmental Initiatives/ Conservation Awareness

Farming in harmony with nature – protecting our precious natural biodiversity Our dedication to farming sustainably and producing environmentally and ethically responsible MCC`s in harmony with nature is a long term commitment to safeguarding the health and welfare of our planet.

However, we are acutely aware that, as admirable as our intentions may be, actions speak louder than words. Consequently we have implemented a comprehensive plan to reduce our impact on the environment and conserve the precious natural heritage we have inherited for future generations to enjoy.

Over the years we have pro-actively and enthusiastically sought to implement the most effective and efficient sustainable practices in every sphere of our business, whether it be in the production facilities or in our agricultural endeavors. It is vital that we are held accountable for our every action and only tangible and lasting results will determine if our efforts have succeeded.

As such we are immensely proud and extremely encouraged by the many positive strides our dedicated team has made in fostering a green culture, not only within the company as an entirety but also within our supply chain, stakeholder and partner networks, farming communities and even amongst our consumer base.

The Graham and Rhona Beck Development Trust also promotes Conservation Awareness. By teaching our community that the physical environment is fragile and indispensable, we can begin fixing the problems that threaten it and protect scarce resources e.g. water conservation.

By financially supporting the RooibergBreederiver Conservancy (region from Goreeshoogte outside Robertson to the Nuy Valley including the Langeberg and Rooiberg Mountains, and the Breede River to the south) the Trust assists the area in their aim to support sustainable resource utilization, as well as the conservation of fauna and flora and their habitats in the RooibergBreede River Conservancy for the benefit of present and future generations (through active participation, communication and education). 

CONSERVING OUR BIODIVERSITY 

We are situated in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom: a biome that hugs the coastline along the far south-western tip of the continent of Africa. The area is home to one of the greatest non-tropical concentrations of higher plant species in the world; some 8,500 species that are largely endemic here. The area has been designated as one of 34 global ecological ‘hotspots’: an extremely threatened area that has lost 70% of its natural vegetation and is in critical danger of further extinction of native plants and animals. 

It is in this threatened ecology that 90% of South Africa’s wine is produced. That 80% of the land is under private ownership is a serious concern for the region’s habitat. 

Rehabilitating and restricting any impact on the ecology is to our way of thinking a top priority. We operate in strict accordance with a comprehensive strategy for restoration and conservation of our biodiversity. 

GRAHAM BECK – WWF CONSERVATION CHAMPIONS 

Graham Beck has been appointed as a WWF Conservation Champion – acknowledged as an environmental leader in the industry for our commitment to conservation, responsible production practices, integrated environmental management systems, and spearheading innovations in water, energy efficiency and climate adaption 

For more info on WWF Conservation and Wine, please visit http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/sustainable_agriculture_/conservation_and_wine/ 

Not long after Graham Beck Wine Estate was established in 1983, they set aside a substantial portion of their land as a private nature reserve in this semi-arid region near Robertson. Many farms in the vicinity followed their lead, which resulted in the coming together of 27 neighbouring landowners, with Graham Beck as the driving force, to create the Rooiberg-Breede River Conservancy. 

The nature reserve is home to many indigenous species of fauna – including the highly endangered and rare riverine rabbit – as well as large tracts of highly sensitive Succulent Karoo vegetation.

With an impressive 1,885 hectares under conservation, Graham Beck also focuses on veld management, control of soil erosion, bio-energy solutions, waste management, environmentally-sensitive pest and disease control, and environmental education and upskilling in the community.

THE GRAHAM BECKMCC CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT PLAN 

Mossie Basson is Conservation Manager on the Graham Beck properties. A passionate eco-defender and biologist by training, Mossie spent 27 years with the Department of Conservation, a position he left in order to contribute more directly to ecological restoration. 

In collaboration with the Graham Beck Wines management team, Mossie developed a conservation philosophy whose four questions inform our efforts: 

  • Is this the best environmental option available?
  • Can it be proven as such?
  • How can the solution be applied economically?
  • How can we inspire our neighbours and wider community? 

On the basis of these, the Graham Beck Conservation Management Plan was developed. The plan informs activities in the Graham Beck Nature Reserve, the Graham Beck portion of the Rooiberg - Breede River Conservancy and on every square foot of the farms under our stewardship. During 2016 an adaptive management plan was completed to include the entire area between Worcester and Robertson. This plan now includes aspects such as: 

  • A conservation Land Planning exercise to include all formal conservation authorities and NGO’s
  • Looking at 12 different vegetation types
  • Most of the different diverse soil formations
  • The geographical priority areas
  • Climate change corridors
  • Threatened plant hotspot priority areas
  • The total conservation landscape and priority areas to link with each other
  • Different stewardship possibilities for land owners
  • Lowland priority hotspots
  • Priority botanical hotspots
  • Freshwater ecosystem priority areas 

Best practice guidelines are now in place for most of the above as well as 37 different best practice guidelines for individual species or practices. Developed to best-practice standards, the plan includes the following.

  • Veld management: The loss of indigenous biomass on the Robertson property has caused severe erosion. Indigenous seeds are planted and covered with branches found locally. Sensitive areas have been fenced off and non-essential roads have been put out of use. Indigenous biomass cover has increased by 46% in the past ten years. The latest survey on plants (2016) reflects
  • Red DATA species: 125 (all of them either critical endangered, endangered, vulnerable or rare status)
  • Special plant species: 623 (1 critical endangered, 12 endangered, 1 decreasing endangered, 9 rare, 25 near threatened and 25 vulnerable status ) 
  • Game management: Reintroduced game species are tracked on a grid system to prevent overuse of vegetation. These four species coexist with 41 species of smaller mammals, 142 species of birds and 40 species of reptiles and amphibians. Feral dogs are removed from the area for the protection of these animals. The latest survey on game (animal) (2016) species reflects:
  • Frogs - 11 species, 1 regarded as endemic
  • Mammals - 33 species
  • Reptiles - 47 species
  • Fish - 11 species, 1 endangered, 1 near threatened and 1 vulnerable
  • Butterfly - 88 species – 1 vulnerable
  • Birds - 198 species – 6 near threatened and 4 vulnerable 
  • Soil erosion control: Severe topsoil loss has occurred in reserve areas owing to overgrazing. Badly eroded areas have been filled in and re-seeded with indigenous plants, while branches have been used as additional reinforcement against the wind. Soil erosion has decreased by 42% in the past ten years. We have now embarked on an almost R3milion project (in collaboration with LANDCARE) of installing gabions in the wider conservancy hoping to address at least seven badly eroded areas per year. This is a combined project with all members of the conservancy (27 different land owners) within the total area of 13 500 ha natural environment we as land owners want to conserve for the next generation. 
  • Bio-energy solutions: The collection and sorting of ‘inherited’ waste, and clearing of alien plant species have presented possible sources of bio-energy. The most promising methods are under investigation. 
  • Waste management: A comprehensive program of waste management has been implemented across our operations. All waste is now managed entirely on site, keeping it out of the waste stream and the biosphere. 
  • Pest and disease control: Biodynamic methods of pest and disease control have been implemented on our properties, resulting in a 73% decrease in the use of pesticides since 2003. 
  • Environmental education: An ongoing program of eco-education is conducted with staff, management and the local community. Included in the program are annual visitations and structured educational opportunities. Visiting eco-tourists are hosted at an average of 13 people per week.We are currently hosting excursions for Outward Bound and The Wilderness Foundation and have instituted the regular Siyazenzela training course at Robertson. We also provide opportunities to send students on the UmziWethu conservation training in collaboration with The Wilderness Foundation (40 students per year). 
  • Conservation incentives: A series of structured incentives are offered to neighbouring farms to encourage participation in waste reduction and management, water recycling, herbicide and pesticide replacement and environmental literacy; and in joining the Rooiberg-Breede River conservancy, as a funded non-profit initiative.There are plans to establish a Protected Environment (10 members of the conservancy) in collaboration with WWF and other funders. This will form part of the vision to create a corridor of natural environment between the Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountain ranges as part of the conservation strategy of the Western Cape. 
  • External auditing: Annual audits are undertaken under the auspices of the Integrated Production of Wine, a voluntary conservation scheme initiated by the wine industry and the WWF.

 THE GRAHAM BECK NATURERESERVE: catalyst of biodiversity conservation for the area 

The Robertson farm, Madeba, is situated in the Succulent Karoo Biome; an area rich in plant- and geological diversity. Of the 1,500 species of vegetation in the area, 115 are endemic, and of these, 77% are succulents. 

Bordering the farm is the Graham Beck Game Reserve, an area that extends to the eastern slopes of the Rooiberg. The reserve was set aside in the 1990s shortly after the Becks purchased the farm, in the hopes of reversing the devastating effects of 200 years of agricultural grazing. 

The soil was badly eroded and the vegetation was all but depleted, including the four most sensitive plant types; Robertson Karoo, Breede shale Renosterveld, Breede quartzite fynbos and Breede sand fynbos. 

Using simple means, such as packing the soil with branches naturally present on the site, almost half of the most eroded areas were stabilised and re-seeded with indigenous plants within the space of a year. Mossie moved into fulltime site management, the area was extended and by May 2006, 1,885 hectares of land had been registered with Cape Nature as a voluntary conservation site. 

In September 2006 the Riverine Rabbit, a critically endangered species once thought extinct, was found to be residing in the Breede Sand Fynbos section of the reserve; the most endangered veld type on the site. 

In July 2007, 27 neighbouring landholders set aside land in a pledge to join the conservation effort. The Rooiberg-Breede River Conservancy thus came into being, and remains the beating heart of our efforts today.

 

FARMING FOR PERPETUITY

 “The main reason why we as scientists cannot combat the loss of biodiversity or ecosystem collapse and climate change is because we are looking in the incorrect direction. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and the greatest apathy. To deal with this we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we as scientists don’t know how to do that.” – Mossie Basson, Graham Beck Conservation Manager. 

Working in concert with ecology is not just a healthy philosophy; it’s a strategy that makes good business sense. 

Adopting the principles of organic farming with the assistance of leading technology enables us to produce wines of exceptional quality from soils that are among the world’s most challenging. Finding creative ways to reduce our resource use has resulted in solutions to minimise waste and maximise our resource recycling. 

Rather than attempting to control the environment, a healthy balance is sought that returns the ecosystem to a state that benefits both the farm and local ecology.

 


Graham Beck
+27.236261214