The Graham Beck Private Nature Reserve Newsletter provides regular feedback on progress at the Graham Beck Wines Robertson Estate. We are hard at work implementing various exciting strategies and projects geared towards promoting a harmonious balance between conservation and wine production. We are very proud of the phenomenal strides we have made so far. But there is still much work to be done. Join us as we celebrate some important milestones.

Biodiversity Champions – and proud of it!

“We at Graham Beck believe the certainties of one age need not be the problems of the next.”
As one of only seven farms in South Africa to achieve Biodiversity Champion Status we strive to ensure all our activities are geared towards ensuring our valuable natural heritage is passed on for the generations to come. The Biodiversity Wine Initiative (BWI) is a pioneering partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector. “Graham Beck Wines has been acknowledged for our role in restoring and preserving large areas of all three major vegetation types found in the Cape Floral Kingdom, namely: fynbos, renosterveld and succulent karoo on our Robertson estate,” explains Mossie Basson, the man at the helm of our conservation drive here at the Graham Beck Nature Reserve.

The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative won the Cape Times Vodacom Environmental Awards 2007, category: Natural Environment. “This award is not for the BWI project team as much as it is recognition to all our BWI members for your sterling conservation efforts and ongoing commitments to BWI,” says BWI project coordinator Inge Kotze. As part of its victory tour of the BWI member cellars, the trophy will take pride of place in the Graham Beck Wines’ tasting rooms.

News from the Nursery

There’s something eminently endearing about the sight of a wobbly legged new born zebra foal taking its first tentative steps only a few moments after being born! Here at the Graham Beck Nature Reserve we’ve been privileged to witness many little miracles greeting the world. Recently a host of new births ushered in a whole new generation of wild and indigenous creatures to swell our already impressive numbers.
Amongst the births were: 11 eland, 4 ostrich chicks, 2 zebra foals, 1 black springbuck and 3 grey rhebuck. “We are very excited about these new additions. It’s a sure sign that not only are the animals well adjusted and content with their surroundings, the veld is healthy and able to sustain them,” says Mossie proudly. There can be no better validation of our efforts in rehabilitating and conserving our environment, than witnessing these small, yet all important milestones contribute their special magic to the bigger picture.

Recent successes and exciting developments

These days the word ‘green’ is on everyone’s lips. It’s a ‘trendy’ term that gets bandied around a lot. By pledging our commitment to ‘going green’ we’re not merely following a fad, but putting our money where our mouth is. Tangible evidence of this commitment includes:

During the last independent sustainable winemaking audit conducted in May 2007 we achieved an 82% score for the winery, a 99.5% score for the vineyard section and 121% score for the biodiversity aspects on our Robertson farm.
We have reduced the use of herbicides and pesticides by 74 % during the last 4 years.
All the sewerage on the farm is contained and we have installed a state of the art organic sewerage system that cleans all the water for re-use (in fact the water we put back into nature is cleaner than the water we extract from the Breede River).
We have registered an area of 1885 ha as a voluntary conservation site and are the only place in the world that formally conserves the endangered Breede Sand Fynbos System.
We are home to the southern most population of riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis.), one of the most threatened mammal species in South Africa.
We teamed up with our neighbours to form a conservancy of around 13 500 ha, conserving 12 different vegetation types, of which two are endangered and two more are vulnerable vegetation types.
Every last bit of waste is recycled or handled according to best practice principles.
We have the best herbicide and pesticide handling facility in South Africa where all efforts are made to prevent contamination of soil, water and workers.
We have a comprehensive environmental management plan implemented by a full time conservation manager and staff.

“The word ‘green’ is not just part of our vocabulary, it’s a mind set and mission we’re working hard at making part of our everyday lives,” maintains Mossie.

Creepy crawlies… all things great and small

Here in Robertson you might say we’re blessed with abundance – we take delight in celebrating the “Small Five”, whether it be a particularly delicate plant species, or one of our many fascinating veld ‘critters’. A walk in our nature reserve or a ‘game’ drive is sure to provide a glimpse of many rare and interesting species.
The Graham Beck Private Nature Reserve is situated within the heart of the Central Breede River Valley, an area identified by The Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Program as a Geographic priority area for Biodiversity conservation. This area of the Succulent Karoo is spectacularly diverse with 1600 plant species of which 40% are endemic and found nowhere else on earth, making the area the first entirely arid region to be recognized as a Biodiversity Hotspot. Currently our natural data list consists of 42 plant families comprising 329 identified species, 142 listed species of birds, 40 reptiles and amphibians and 41 species of mammals.

Keeping it clear

One of the largest projects undertaken in the conservation sector in 2007 was our alien vegetation eradication programme, which took place on our Franschhoek farm.
The clearing of alien vegetation is an ongoing project and the aim is to clear the areas and rehabilitate vegetation back to the very valuable Boland Granite Fynbos vegetation. More than 51% of this vegetation was lost during the past 100 years due to development. Of the remaining 49% virtually 86% is threatened by the invasion of alien vegetation. “We have almost 100 ha of this vegetation on the farm that can be protected for future generations,” says Mossie. An area of around 60 ha was cleared. This was done at a rate of almost three quarters of a hectare per day by 14 workers who removed more than 11 tons of vegetation every day by hand! The team consisted of 82% female and 18% male workers and led by the extremely competent Nonzame Ngame. Three cheers for women in the work place! The next phase will be to divide the remaining areas into smaller sections to be cleared over a period of 5 years. This will allow time for us to revisit the cleared areas and ensure that alien plants do not gain a foothold once again.

Bloomin’ Marvelous

The Graham Beck Nature Reserve is a floral wonderland, particularly in spring when the veld is carpeted in a veritable kaleidoscope of colour.
We had the privilege of witnessing a spectacular 2007 spring, heralding a season of new growth. “We are particularly proud of our Pelargoniums. One of the species could well be a new plant and we are currently investigating DNA differences to determine if this is indeed the case,” reports Mossie proudly. The P furgisonia has previously only been recorded in two other areas, making this is a new distribution area record. The P violiflorum is a red data species classified as rare, while the P tetraconium is the largest of the Pelargonium species to occur in the Graham Beck Nature Reserve. “This plant, with its interesting square stem is one of only two plants seen on our property so far,” comments Mossie.

Welcome to the new Rooiberg-Breederivier Conservancy

Graham Beck Robertson is a proud member of the recently established Rooiberg-Breederivier Conservancy.
This conservancy consists of our selves and 23 other land owners. The conservancy, with the exception of one farm, totally surrounds our Graham Beck private nature reserve, forming an almost perfect protection zone around our reserve. This will help prevent poaching in the future. As a group of farmers, The Conservancy also protects 12 different vegetation types, of which two have ‘threatened’ status. A total area of 13 500 ha of natural vegetation in this very valuable and rare Succulent Karoo ecosystem are protected in this way. The Conservancy members signed a voluntary agreement with each other to commit themselves to the conservation and protection of this area and new members are already applying to become part of this exciting project. We hosted both the annual general meeting for the Western Cape Stewardship Association as well as the Biodiversity and Wine Technical Training day on our Franschhoek farm. The association awarded us with a special certificate for contributing towards conservation and in complying with best practice guidelines for farmers to combat climate change.

Till next time!Graham Beck Nature Reserve regards.

PS Sales of our Graham Beck Gamekeeper`s Reserve 2006, launched especially to commemorate and support conservation activities at our private nature reserve, have rocketed in North America and Tanzania. More reason to celebrate!