Avontuur Sustainable Agriculture

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.

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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.

Black Harriers breed on Avontuur

This summer a nesting pair of Black Harriers bred out four youngsters on Avontuur. They chose a remote site, and would probably not have been observed if not for the satellite tracking device fitted to the female a year before in the West Coast National Park. PhD student Marie-Sophie Garcia-Heras tracked them down, and was able to monitor the growth of the nestlings. In this picture the male Black Harrier is released after being measured.

GEF Small Grants Project makes good progress

In 2013 we implemented the first phase of a soil and water conservation project that includes significant activities on Avontuur. The project was launched at a well-attended workshop at Avontuur on 11 May 2013. In the course of the winter the team of Andre van Wyk, Areefa Tietis, Cynthia Coetzee, Andries Opperman and Moeti Phala constructed a series of check-dams and micro-catchments on the more degraded part of Avontuur, with very impressive results (see our photo gallery).

Related resources

+ Erosion Control Workshop report


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.