Avontuur Sustainable Agriculture

Author Archives: Siyabonga Myeza




Healthy organic garlic, mulch holing moisture and providing protection from direct heat of the sun and compost in the background

Mornings are cooler, most air chills the face, mist and thick clouds loom on the horizon. The days are becoming shorter and pleasurably cooler, although still warm on sunny afternoons. Occasional storms, rain, and thick mist have returned. Autumn, the season of new growth and new beginnings in the Bokkeveld has arrived. Continue reading

Avontuur Nature Reserve: Part of the Great Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor

GCBC seeks to conserve and restore the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom, covering a vast stretching from the Karoo to the adjacent marine environment of the West Coast, while delivering significant benefits to the people of the region. The Greater Cederberg landscape represents a significant part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, covering a wide range of altitudes and extending across climatic and habitat gradients http://www.cederbergcorridor.org.za/about

Avontuur is situated in the far north of the GCBC planning domain, near the northern tip of the Bokkeveld plateau. Conservation of this unique property contributes significantly to the tapestry of conserved environments in the GCBC, with three vegetation types: Fynbos, Dolerite Renosterveld and Tillite Renosterveld.

GCBC Avontuur map

Soil and Water Conservation Manual now available!

Noel Oettlé and Siyabonga Myeza recently wrote a handbook for managing soil and water in a sustainable way: “A Practical Manual for the Conservation of Soil and Water” is now available on line, you can download it for free here. S&W Conservation Manual We have written this book to provide a simple and accessible guide to caring for the soil and the myriad plants and organisms that live in and depend on it.

Much of the practical experience that this book is based on is drawn from our work in the Suid Bokkeveld and on the Avontuur Nature Reserve in the North Bokkeveld, in the Nieuwoudtville area in the Northern Cape South Africa. It has also been enriched by previous experiences in Lesotho and KwaZulu Natal, and fertilised by the other practitioners who have contributed their experiences to the WOCAT (Wold Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies) and to Ken Coetzee, whose advice and guidance in relation to the rehabilitation of degraded lands on Avontuur has provided invaluable.

In this book you will find easy to understand diagrams and links to other related resources.

Healing the Land – Short film


A knowledge sharing short film on soil rehabilitation in the Bokkeveld, Northern Cape, South Africa. Through practical experimentation over the past six years on the Avontuur conservation property innovative methods of soil and water conservation have been developed with the support of UNDP’s GEF Small Grants Programme. The Hesselmans, a small-scale farming family were inspired by this work and decided to apply what they had learned on their land to improve their livelihoods. Film available on this link Healing the Land



Living Land – A new book


EMG’s work with small-scale rooibos farmers in the Northern Cape has been highlighted in a chapter of a new book “Living Land” co-published by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Tudor Rose for the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (2010-2020).

Vulnerability to land degradation on a global scale is driven by a combination of a changing climate and patterns of land use. Addressing climate change requires co-operation at a global scale. Ensuring appropriate land use requires local action.

According to the UNCCD, the new book is a powerful outreach tool for sensitizing the public about land degradation problems and the mobilizing efforts that are taking place around the world.

You can access the digital version of “Living Land” via this link to the publisher’s website


Add a comment (0)

Water Beetles

On the 5th and 6th of October Dr David T Bilton from Plymouth University in the United Kingdom visited Avontuur. David is an Associate Professor and Reader in Aquatic Biology at the Marine Biology & Ecology Research Centre in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University. He was accompanied by his colleagues Dr Stacy DeAmicis and Dr Andy Foggo.


Dr David Bilton collecting beetle samples from a standing water body along the Grasberg River

David has a longstanding interest in water beetles. He has travelled widely in Africa, the UK, the Middle East and in continental Europe, studying and sampling these fascinating water organisms. In South Africa he has been doing fieldwork since 2008, working mostly in the Western Cape, where lots of the beetle he finds are new to science. His visit to the Matsikammaberg last year produced 4 new species, for example, three of which are only known from this mountain. He is hoping the Bokkeveld may render some interesting water organisms too. Other sites he has sampled at are the Injisuthi area in the KZN Drakensberg, the Cape Peninsula and parts of the Cederberg in the Western Cape and, more recently, the Bokkeveld and Hantam plateaus in the Northern Cape.

IMG_2857  IMG_2860

These are the tools used to search for and catch beetles in water bodies. The beetles vary in size so the catching nets also vary.

There are approximately 13 000 species of true water beetles known throughout the world, but the real number out there is probably closer to 20 000. Water beetle is a generalized name for any beetle living in water at any point in its life cycle, and beetles have colonised water around 20 times from different terrestrial ancestors during the course of their evolution. Most water beetles can only live in fresh water, with a few marine species that live in the littoral zone, although they also represent an important part of the fauna of salt lakes and pans as well as inland salt rivers. From David’s long involvement in studying these fascinating organisms he has observed many interesting lineages I here in South Africa, including some whose closest relatives are in far away places like Europe and Australia, rather than other parts of Africa. This goes to show why it is so important for these fresh water invertebrates to be studied.

We are looking forward to seeing the list of species that were sampled in Avontuur and to know if there are any new ones and perhaps learn more about their relatives from around the world.

IMG_2869 IMG_2861 IMG_2875

The team also found time for some sight-seeing. A walk to Kromvlei and the escarpment was a delight.


Amsinckia spp. Eradication Research Experiment on Avontuur

Conducted by EMG team: Areefa Tietis, Cynthia Coetzee, André Van Wyk

Lead researcher Siya Myeza.

Supervised by: Noel Oettle

Start date: 22 September 2014

Amsinckia is an invasive alien herbaceous plant that thrives in disturbed and more fertile areas. It is winter growing and flowers and sets seed in the spring months of August and September, and with the seed maturing in October. Its presence is undesirable because it is invasive and thus displaces indigenous plants, and it is unpalatable for livestock, especially later in the spring when its hairy leaves irritate the mouths of grazing animals. Its thorny seed pods are readily transported and distributed in the wool of sheep.


Amsinckia spp. hand removed by uprooting in one of the plots and left as a mulch. Uprooting is the management strategy generally used in the infested areas, and as a result of the initial findings of the research most uprooted plants were composted in 2015.

Continue reading

A week in Nieuwoudtville



Common name: Bulbinella family of Asphodelacea


August 25, 2015

A week in Nieuwoudtville

By María Fernanda González

I am a botanist from Colombia, one of the most amazing countries in the world! I’m used to walking amongst giants trees in humid forests, looking for plants. I love to know the scientific names of each plant, and so I spend most of my time repeating Latin names as “mantras”. My dream is to conserve these forests. Currently I am on a learning journey to South Africa, because I want to learn from the conservation community here because this country (which, like Colombia, is also a highly biodiverse country) is working to conserve biodiversity.

I’ve been to different parts of South Africa and recently I was fortunate to spend a week in Nieuwoudtville, learning about Indigo and EMG and sharing stories with lovely people.

Nieuwoudtville was just wonderful. First, I had a workshop with school children. I made a presentation about why I decided to be botanist. I talked about how amazing plants are and why it is important to conserve it. Then we had a session to create some paintings about the ecosystems of Colombia. This workshop was very special to me. I enjoyed hearing the children’s questions and the opportunity to share a bit of my country with them. At the end of the workshop I was recharged with kisses and hugs!


Then, I spent the weekend at Avontuur. I understood why Nieuwoudtville is considered the world capital of plants with bulbs. I understood also that means “millions” of flowers. Spring in Avontuur is the heaven for passionate botanist like me. During the day I walked a lot to see different plants that are in Fynbos and Renosterveld. At night and early in the morning, I “dived” into the books and I tried to identify all the plants. I had many books because Bettina made a very nice “portable library” for me ☺. In just one weekend I could see almost a hundred different species of plants! It’s amazing!!!

Finally, to close the week, I had a presentation about Colombia for Indigo and EMG. This presentation was a brief introduction to the social, economic and biological context of my country. I enjoyed watching everyone’s amazement face while I spoke. Colombia and South Africa are very different. It is wonderful to see how the “normal things” can be so different in each country.

In ten days I’ll be in my beloved country. I will come home with a lot of stories about South Africa. After this time in South Africa, my mind and my heart are full of beautiful memories, amazing experiences and useful lessons. Thanks Indigo and EMG for this “baie lekker” time with you.


Winter School 2015

Avontuur saw a bundle of  young happy faces during the field visit to learn more about healthy soil, healthy ecosystem and healthy food.

After an informative session in our Nieuwoudtville offices we took a drive to Avontuur to do some practical work with the young stars who were participating in the Winter School Programme run by Indigo Development & Change a local NGO. We measured earthworm activity on the soil, did some erosion control work and planted a few lines of garlic. We closed the day in style sitting on the rocks at the river bank reflecting on the day.

Earthworm measurements

Group of local learners and the EMG team measuring earthworm activity in the soil at Avontuur during the week of 8th of July 2015.