History of the farm
Avontuur is a 1,300ha property on the north Bokkeveld plateau that was purchased by WWF in 2008 conserve its unique biodiversity. Since then the property has been managed as a conservation property by EMG and Avontuur Sustainable Agriculture.
Spanning the plateau from the western escarpment to the deeply incised kloofs on its eastern margins, Avontuur represents all three major geological strata of the Bokkeveld (Table Mountain Sandstone, Dwyka Tillite and Dolerite), and thus hosts three distinct vegetation types (Bokkeveld Sandstone, Nieuwoudtville Shale Renosterveld and Nieuwoudtville – Roggeveld Dolerite Renosterveld).
Avontuur has been farmed for more than 250 years, and on the more fertile eastern areas the highly specialised and diverse flora on the property has been impacted by grazing and cultivation. Nevertheless, large areas have retained a remarkable diversity of plant life: at the latest count 483 species, with at least two (possibly three) previously undescribed taxa having been recorded, one of which is known only from this property (Felicia sp.). Aspalathus obliqua was rediscovered on site, after not having been seen for over 160 years, and is also known only from this site. An impressive 33 of the taxa recorded on the property are Red Listed as Species of Conservation Concern.
The main reasons that the western half of the site was selected as a Critical Biodiversity Area (CBA) in the Fine Scale Conservation Plan (FSP) for the Bokkeveld Escarpment were the extent of remaining, undisturbed natural habitat, in combination with the known presence of rare, regionally endemic plant species. Based on recent satellite imagery of the region, plus extensive fieldwork, it is known that this property is unique – no other areas of uncultivated deep sands on the Escarpment support all or part of four seasonal pans (Cape Vernal Pools), and in addition span the transition from sandstone to tillite to dolerite and back over the rainfall gradient of the Bokkeveld Plateau.
The sandstone-derived deep soils on site have never been cultivated, and constitute about 40% of the total site (some 520ha). This is one of the most threatened habitats on the Bokkeveld Escarpment (thanks mainly to the recent surge in rooibos cultivation), and is thus a major conservation priority. Rocky sandstone areas cover another approximately 50ha. The mostly undisturbed dolerites on site occupy about 60ha, and the unploughed tillites occupy about 180ha, making a total of about 810ha of undisturbed natural vegetation, with the remaining 600ha being made up of previously cultivated land, most of which is in varying stages of natural rehabilitation.
In the 2009 and 2010 two studies were commissioned to inform conservation actions and to provide a basis for future monitoring and to inform management of the site: Simon Todd conducted a and Ken Coetzee assessed land degradation, summaries In Land Degradation Analysis and Veld Rehabilitation Guidelines: Avontuur, Nieuwoudtville.
About 500ha of the eastern, Renosterveld part of the property was previously cultivated. In some areas intensive farming resulted in extensive degradation. The property has been rested since it was purchased, and active restoration of the vegetation and rehabilitation of the eroded areas have also been undertaken. In the summer of 2009 – 2010 seeds of a number of plant species were collected on the property, with the intention of re-establishing a diverse and robust matrix of plants that would sufficiently simulate the structure and function of the Renosterveld to facilitate the gradual restoration of the indigenous flora.
Soil erosion has been controlled, and re-vegetation of denuded areas has been stimulated by the construction of check dams, as well as with geotextile surface covering. As a result more water is being retained in the landscape, and re-established vegetation is gradually taking hold. Alien trees on the property have been controlled. Avontuur demonstrates how the ecological balance can be tipped back in the right direction in a degraded landscape.
Our vision is of a productive farm which integrates the social and natural environment and which, in association with the Hantam National Botanical Garden, provides inspiration for all by managing the natural resources with critical reflection toward achieving sustainable production with a positive carbon balance and tangible benefit to the local community whilst demonstrating active restoration of biodiversity, conserving soil and expanding and deepening knowledge about the natural and social environment through training and collaborative trans-disciplinary research.
Our Mission is to establish a sound management plan for the Avontuur property, and to monitor and contribute to its implementation in accordance with the Vision, in collaboration with other stakeholders and partners.
Why is Avontuur special?
- Integrating conservation and farming in a sustainable way
- Offering trans-disciplinary research opportunities
- Integrated Resource Management
- Long term monitoring site
- A space to explore, learn and share
- Experiential learning activities
- A place of healing
Board of Directors
Jenifer Gouza, Cape Nature
Clement Cupido, Agricultural Research Council
Willem van Wyk, Papkuilsfontein, Nieuwoudtville
Noel Oettlé, Environmental Monitoring Group
Rhoda Malgas, University of Stellenbosch
Domitilla Raimondo, South African National Biodiversity Institute
|Total Area||1300 ha|
|Management||Avontuur Sustainable Agriculture|
|Distance from Nieuwoudtville||13 km|
|Public access||by appointment only|
|Total Plant Species||483 species|
|Plant Species of Conservation Concern (Red Listed)||33 species|
|Species only conserved on this farm||3 Species|