COMMITTED TO CONSERVATION
Biodiversity is the sum of all living things on earth, from genes to entire ecosystems. Therefore, in order for us to conserve biodiversity, we need to look after all its components. These include functioning natural habitats, the species that occur in these habitats, and the ecological interactions between species and their environments.
Waterkloof is situated within the Cape Floral Region, one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots because of its exceptional natural diversity and dangerously high levels of habitat destruction. We are committed to the preservation of our unique heritage, having set aside almost 50% of our farm for conservation purposes. As the conservation of this unique natural environment depends entirely on the co-operation between conservation bodies and landowners, we joined the World Wildlife Fund’s Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) at its inception (www.bwi.co.za). This initiative is a pioneering partnership between the wine industry and the conservation sector, focusing on the introduction of biodiversity guidelines in the wine industry.
During May 2008, Waterkloof was awarded BWI Champion status, having earned additional recognition or a proven track record of environmental responsibility. We became only the tenth producer to be awarded this level of recognition. Waterkloof also registered the conservation areas on the farm with CapeNature (www.capenature.org.za), as part of their voluntary Conservation Stewardship project. CapeNature is the public institution with statutory responsibility for biodiversity conservation in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Being registered allows us to use more mainstream methods to ensure that we measure the benefits associated with sustainable farming, such as ‘avoided costs’ like energy and water savings; strong agricultural outputs also contribute to offset the costs associated with conservation, such as ‘healthy soils’, good water infiltration, enhanced productivity and a larger degree of self-sustained pest control. We believe this way, we can make intrinsically better wine.
Measures we introduced to achieve Biodiversity Champion status and subsequently, to convert Waterkloof to biodynamic farming include:
– Installing drip irrigation as a more efficient system to conserve water
– Introducing biological control of pests as an alternative to chemical spraying
– Introducing a formal nature conservation plan
– Clearing approximately 45 hectares of our land from alien invader species
– Introducing several preventive erosion control measures
– Re-establishing natural vegetation in previously disturbed areas
– Providing migration corridors for species between isolated areas of natural vegetation
– Mulching of winter cover crops to create a healthy environment for the natural predators of vine pests
– Installing perches for birds of prey in order to use natural rodent control measures
– Utilizing the natural, biodynamic preparations 501-508 on the vines, in the soil and within our composts.
– Working with six Percheron horses to plough, compost, spray and harvest the vineyards instead of using tractors, in order to reduce damage to the soil and vines and to reduce carbon emissions
– Keeping a flock of chickens, to reduce the number of pests in the vineyard and to bring more nitrogen back into our soil and composts, as well as providing fresh, free-range eggs for our restaurant
– Maintaining a small herd of cows, which are key to producing biodynamic composts and teas.
– Undertaking certain vineyard and cellar activities at specific times, depending on the phase of the moon. It is clear from the rising tides during full moon, that the natural world is affected by this phenomenon.
– Looking after our own flock of Dorper sheep, which are allowed to graze in the vineyards in Winter and naturally reduce the level of weeds and vegetation between vine rows, as well as putting Nitrogen back into the soil
– Planting of our own permaculture garden to provide vegetables and herbs for the restaurant
– Developing our own earthworm farm using old wine barrels, so that we can use earthworm tea on our vegetable and herb garden and occasionally in the vineyard