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An exceptional golden milestone for conservation

There are now 50 WWF Conservation Champion farms which are not only environmental leaders in the wine industry but also the custodians of two major global biodiversity hotspots.

Most South African wine is grown in the Cape Winelands, which overlaps with two major global biodiversity hotspots – the Cape Floral Kingdom and the Succulent Karoo. Both are unique habitats for many rare and endangered species which, if left unprotected, may be lost forever.
Fortunately, South Africa’s wine farms, spread across the Cape Winelands from Constantia to Robertson, and from Stellenbosch to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, are stepping up as true custodians of the land, with 50 of these wine farms now being recognised as WWF Conservation Champions, following the recent inclusion of Diemersdal (Durbanville) and Cavalli Estate (Stellenbosch).
“We are thrilled to welcome these newcomers to the WWF Conservation Champion programme. Both have met stringent criteria and shown exceptional commitment to sustainable practices, while safeguarding endangered species in unique habitats,” comments Shelly Fuller, Manager of WWF’s Fruit and Wine programme.

It is wonderful to achieve this golden milestone of 50 Conservation Champions, especially during these challenging times for the industry. It proves that sustainable farming in harmony with nature, expansion into eco-tourism activities and conservation of local biodiversity are winning strategies that benefit people and nature.”

The 50 WWF Conservation Champions are acknowledged as environmental leaders in the wine industry for their exceptional commitment to regenerative farming practices, including conserving natural systems and biodiversity on their land, implementing responsible production practices and spearheading innovations in water and energy efficiency.

Collectively, these 50 WWF Conservation Champions own 43 000 hectares of land, of which 23 000 hectares is conserved as a pristine part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This achievement is due to the unique and symbiotic working relationship between WWF and Cape wine farmers.

The Conservation Champion programme, facilitated by the WWF, and graciously funded by Neville and Pamela Isdell, supports wine farms in their conservation endeavours through advisory support and assistance with setting tangible targets and prioritising actions to address their most pressing environmental risks. The 50 farms work closely with WWF undertaking annual assessments to ensure they meet the specifications required of a Conservation Champion. 
This golden milestone is a testament to the extraordinary measures local wine growers have implemented to protect and conserve the Cape winelands, which overlaps two major global biodiversity hotspots: the Cape Floral Kingdom and the Succulent Karoo.
“Even during these turbulent and unprecedented times, with multiple lockdowns and bans on sale of alcohol, the WWF Conservation Champion wine farms have maintained their exceptional conservation commitment to farm in harmony with nature. Despite the current circumstances, the number of new champions has grown strongly over the last two years, showcasing the passion and dedication of local wine producers,” concludes Fuller. 

Each WWF Conservation Champion wine farm has a unique sustainability story: many have set aside land for conservation; rehabilitated vast sections of the Cape Floral Kingdom through alien invasive clearing projects; reduced their water usage; and implemented energy-efficiency solutions. Many wine farms have also diversified their wine farm offering through sustainability initiatives to include nature-based activities like walking, hiking and mountain biking trails, outdoor dining, bird watching, eco-lodging, picnics, nature drives and ‘vinisafari’s’ to attract more visitors and contribute to ecotourism.

Vondeling, a long-standing member of the WWF Conservation Champion programme, is home to a very rare plant called the Babiana noctiflora which can be seen blooming here.

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