Celebrating ten years of innovative conservation in the Cape winelands | WWF South Africa

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Celebrating ten years of innovative conservation in the Cape winelands

The story of WWF's conservation work in the Cape Winelands has been beautifully captured in a new coffee table book.

Following rapid vineyard expansion into highly threatened habitats in the Cape winelands during the early 2000s, the introduction of a unique conservation and wine industry initiative has achieved real and tangible “turnaround” results within only a decade. This story has been beautifully captured in a new coffee table book, out in October, titled ‘The Wine Kingdom: Celebrating conservation in the Cape winelands.

With 95 percent of South Africa’s wine growing taking place in the Cape winelands, vines and other crops – and the Cape’s unique vegetation – vie for space and balanced co-existence. Agriculture also has the largest impact on biodiversity loss and over 80% of South Africa’s land is situated in privately-owned or communal farmlands.

To address these issues, discussions between landowners, industry and conservationists gave rise to the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), launched in 2004 as a collaboration between the South African wine industry and conservation sector. Its aim was simple: to prevent further loss of conservation-worthy habitat and endangered species in an area that is uniquely home to two global biodiversity hotspots – the Cape Floral Kingdom and the Succulent Karoo – whilst also supporting responsible farming practices.

And it was a success. Over 10 years, 2005 to 2015, nearly 90% of wine producers in the South African wine industry have firmly embedded responsible environmental practices into their business and a third of all producers have committed land to conservation, thus creating a critical mass of South African wine producers who are now driving improved farming practices and  pursuing dedicated conservation commitments.

Co-ordinated in recent years by WWF South Africa, the BWI used a membership model – including entry-level BWI Members and industry-leading BWI Champions – to promote broad awareness and participation in driving conservation minded farming practices that would see global recognition for the South African wine industry as leaders of the global wine sector in demonstrating the balance between nature and farming.

WWF South Africa Extension Officer Joan Isham says, “I’ve had the privilege of working with many wine farms and showing them the value of joining the BWI, as well as very practically helping them improve the management of their land.” She adds, “It’s incredibly encouraging to now see farmers making decisions based on good ecological principles.”

With this industry-wide commitment now well established, WWF has re-focused the scope of the conservation partnership with this sector. From the 2015 harvest onwards, WWF will only support the industry trailblazers – previously known as BWI Champions – now called WWF Conservation Champions. WWF welcomes any new Conservation Champion applications based on the rigorous environmental criteria that differentiate these producers as industry leaders. These Conservation Champions will retain the exclusive use of the striking black label with the Cape sugarbird and protea, which both encapsulates the symbiosis of nature and acknowledges these producers as environmental industry leaders pursing long-term conservation commitments, and spearheading innovations in water, energy efficiency and climate adaptation.

While many people choose their wine based on grape varietal, farm name, brand or label – the sugarbird and protea label has come to hold the collective wisdom of many conservation stories waiting to be discovered. Explore this fascinating new world in your enjoyment of wine through the visual and storytelling journey in the exciting new 192-page hardcover book, The Wine Kingdom.

Purchase your copy of the book here.
Over 10 years, nearly 90% of wine producers in the South African wine industry have firmly embedded responsible environmental practices into their business.

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