Avontuur Sustainable Agriculture

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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


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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.


Looking for a an opportunity to make a contribution to conservation? We are willing to host volunteers who would like to undertake research or conservation work on Avontuur (minimum 2 months). We can provide supervision and basic accommodation, but are not able to pay volunteers for their work.

Research opportunities on Avontuur

Avontuur has been the site of some exciting research in the past years on subjects as diverse as solitary bees, soil erosion and Black Harriers. We are willing to collaborate with students and senior researchers. Our soils are the most under-researched part of the environment, and if your research interest relates to soils crusts or earthworms, please let us know. For all research-related queries please contact Noel Oettle dryland@global.co.za.