While it is not easy to put a monetary value to the biodiversity of the region, a recent natural resource economics study estimated the total economic value of the CRFR as at least R10 000 million per year. The landscapes and biodiversity of the region have a lot to offer its inhabitants. If wisely managed, the natural landscapes and biodiversity of the Cape have the potential to sustain many livelihoods in the long term. While tourism is the obvious draw card, others industries such as sustainable flower harvesting, rooibos and honeybush tea, buchu, thatching, sour fig and medicinal plants are all important economic activities. In fact more than 200 different products of the fynbos biome are marketed internationally from South Africa, of which more than 90% are harvested from or cultivated within their natural habitat.
Sustainable use of fynbos requires an appreciation of its ecology. From a conservation perspective, wild harvesting is preferable to cultivation as it has less impact on the functioning of natural systems. If implemented in an ecologically sound way, it is possible to harvest significant quantities of material from the wild without impacting on the natural functioning of fynbos ecosystems. Over-harvesting will impact on the future of your farming enterprise. I have been involved with research and management of sustainable harvesting since 1999 with the Flower Valley Conservation Trust. In the Working with fynbos blog section I will focus on useful hands-on tips with regards managing fynbos resources both from a conservation and sustainable use angle. I will also highlight community-based initiatives illustrating the potential and pitfalls of these partnerships.