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Research at Newcastle University has addressed challenges associated with the sustainable harvesting of fynbos, an indigenous wildflower unique to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, through the implementation of harvester training and harvesting assessment tools developed by the research team and the Flower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT).



The global market for South African fynbos is worth more than £7,000,000 annually. Most fynbos is harvested from 200,000 hectares of the Western Cape. However, this resource is under threat, partly due to unsustainable harvesting practices.



Research by geographers at Newcastle University and Durham University blended perspectives in economic and cultural geography to understand how supply chain sustainability works in specific ways in particular places.



Flower Valley Conservation Trust, a non-governmental organisation, was a research partner and key beneficiary. Collaborative research by the team and FVCT resulted in a first-of-its kind multi-lingual field guidebook. The guidebook has been given to each harvesting team in the Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) which has significantly enhanced the accessibility of training resources.

FVCT has introduced rigorous in-field monitoring and recording of the compliance of picking teams with the Sustainable Harvesting Code of Practice. Between July 2017 and January 2018, field data were collected by FVCT on an unprecedented scale covering 25 species and 1,218 plant samples harvested by 9 picking teams in the SHP.

The harvester training has also created the social network through which FVCT has communicated with harvesters during the COVID-19 crisis. The research team collaborated with FVCT on a telephone survey of harvesters in April and May 2020 to establish the economic effects on livelihoods and to connect those in urgent need with relief.

The field guide, i-Fynbos app, and multi-lingual harvester training are components of the SHP that are now parts of a strategy for a Western Cape government department business proposal. The Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning identified a need for a wider Sustainable Harvesting Assurance System operating across the Cape province with reach beyond the SHP. FVCT collaborated with consultants Tomorrow Matters Now (TOMA-Now) to conduct a business and public consultation exercise and TOMA-Now produced a plan, published on 15 March 2019, to scale up FVCT’s SHP into a Sustainable Flower Harvesting Assurance System.


More information 

Institution: Newcastle University 

Researchers: Professor Alexandra Hughes, Dr David Bek

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Improving sustainable wildflower harvesting practices in South Africa’s Western Cape​. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>