Found in the lowlands at the heart of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region, the lowland renosterveld of South Africa’s Overberg is one of the most biodiverse and yet most threatened habitats on earth. Large herds of game including black rhinos once roamed these landscapes, but today they have been hunted out and just 5% of this imperilled ecosystem now remains, the majority having been ploughed up to make way for intensive agriculture.
The Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT) is a small nonprofit dedicated to halting the renosterveld’s spiral towards functional extinction, with the aim of conserving this highly biodiverse ecosystem through working alongside landowners across the region. In 2014 WWF-SA purchased the property Haarwegskloof and it was handed to the ORCT to manage and conserve. The ORCT is an organisation that has always dreamed big: Thanks to a successful crowdfunder, funds were raised to turn the derelict farmhouse into the world’s first research and visitor’s centre for renosterveld, aptly located by the world’s largest surviving area of lowland renosterveld.
Located in the eastern Overberg, Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve is the jewel in the crown for this vegetation, its extraordinary flora and wildlife as well as a space for visitors to learn more about why we need to conserve it. The research centre offers a home away from home and space to collaborate for a lively cohort of postgraduate researchers working hard to grow our knowledge on renosterveld ecology and conservation management.
It is now more than five years since the Renosterveld Reserve and Visitors Centre was founded at Haarwegskloof. The ORCT has another dream for the place, and they need your help. The Trust is now raising funds through another crowdfunding initiative to develop a learning hub on the reserve, with a focus on environmental education. The aim is to grow the Centre to invite school children and other interested groups from the Overberg and beyond to learn about the ecology and biodiversity of renosterveld, raising awareness about the challenges facing threatened ecosystems across the globe.
Why is this such an important initiative? One of the keystones of effective conservation is raising awareness about what we are seeking to protect so that others are aware of its importance. To do this most effectively we need to reach and inspire as many people as possible, no matter their age, interests or background.
It is widely acknowledged across the environmental sector that children who participate in outdoor nature-focused activities are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards the environment as adults, encouraging them to implement change within their daily lives to benefit the environment. It also plays a key part in training the conservationists of tomorrow, inspiring them through immersion in the natural world. Given the state of the earth that our future generations will inherit, it is crucial that we prepare our children with the skills to become the problem solvers and decision makers of tomorrow. The time to act is now.
If you would like to help the ORCT to develop a learning hub for children at Haaarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve, more information can be found here:
We thank you for your support.