The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), a partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector, has experienced significant growth in membership in the three years of its existence.
“At present, we have 101 members and champions, with a collective conservation area of 64,000 hectares set aside for conservation in the Cape Winelands,” says BWI project coordinator Inge Kotze.
This accounts for the equivalent of more than half the country’s entire area under vine. For every two hectares of planted vines, there is a little more than one hectare under conservation within the Cape Winelands.
South Africa is the eighth-largest wine producer in the world, with 102,000 hectares cultivated to vines, representing 3.5 percent of global output.
The BWI states that clearing this land of alien vegetation will go a long way in saving water, as alien plants not only curtail the growth of indigenous flora, but in some instances use as much as 100 times more water than indigenous flora.
By July this year, when 50,000 hectares had already been set aside for conservation, plans were under way to set aside an additional 50,000 hectares by the end of the decade. Given the support of the country’s wine industry, the BWI could reach its goal before that time, with as much land in conservation as under vineyard.
Almost 95 percent of South Africa’s wine growing takes place in the Cape Floral Kingdom (CFK), which is the richest but also the smallest plant kingdom on Earth.
The CFK is home to about 9,600 plant species, more than found in the entire northern hemisphere. Recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot and a world heritage site, it has come under increasing threat from agriculture, urban development and invasive alien species.
The BWI’s mandate is not confined to protecting the natural habitat, but also involves encouraging wine producers to conduct farming in a sustainable manner, and express the advantages of the Cape’s wine diversity.