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LATEST UPDATE: 23 February 2018. Afrikaans article in Landbouweekblad about farming activities on Zandvlakte

Landbouweekblad voorblad vir Webblad


Download the complete Afrikaans Landbouweekblad artikel


An Afrikaans radio interview is available on Youtube with images from the Baviaanskloof area added.


Since 1981, now for 29 years, Pieter Kruger dedicated himself to the restoration of the Baviaanskloof ecosystem.



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Watch this Youtube video

In the 1980s the government subsidized the South African farmers  with the aim to encourage agriculture development in the rural areas and counterbalance the international sanctions against the country. Within the next five years large parts of the South African landscape were degraded through overgrazing and the plowing of marginal lands. The subsidies enabled farmers to buy more livestock, bulldozers, tractors, implements and other equipment. The electricity network in the country was expanded to enable more pumping of water for new cultivated land. Where farmers formerly pumped water for an average of 6 hours per day, they were now able to pump 24 hours per day with bigger, more powerful pumps, irrigating much bigger fields.

The dramatic effects were also evident in the Baviaanskloof. Millions of trees and other vegetation were removed from the flood plains in preparing new fields for cultivation.

What looked like prosperity, turned out to be the devastation of natural capital on a grand scale.




‘Keerwalle’ (High weirs, or berms), were constructed in the early 1980s, subsidized and designed by the Department of Water Affairs. The river, as well as tributaries were channeled. The alluvial fans were destroyed and replaced with cultivated fields, protected by berms.

field survey - Standing on a man made berm in the Baviaanskloof River - channelization of the river — with Kate Rowntree


Aerial survey-Upper Baviaanskloof Floodplains-betweenVerlorenriver&Uitslag
Photos: Japie Buckle. Aerial views of the
deforested and dried-out flood plains

Headcut at top of erosion gullyHeadcut

Soil historySerious erosion within the riverbed itself




Historically overgrazing had occurred since 1817 as a result of subsistence-farming against the mountain slopes and in the Spekboom-veldt. (Spekboom – Portulacaria afra).

Since 1982 the process accelerated considerably. Where a farm previously could only carry 200 sheep/goats, the same piece of land now carried 2000, thanks to the government subsidies. The loss of the Spekboom canopy and other vegetation from the overgrazing, caused the temperature of the soil to increase, which destroyed the biology of the soil. The carbon cycle was also destroyed, preventing the new formation of soil through organic deposits. It led to the loss of topsoil, causing more erosion.

The ability of nature to regenerate new soil was compromised. The ecosystem became dysfunctional.  Natural processes were halted.
Aerial survey-Rus en Vrede + JoachimskraalAerial survey-Baviaanskloof from the air looking eastPhotos: Japie Buckle: Presence of desertification in the Baviaanskloof




text - River restoration

With the support of the Dutch Government, as well as the University of Wageningen, international students, since 2008, have done research for their masters- and doctorate degrees through a knowledge exchange program between themselves and farmers in the Baviaanskloof. A new mindset and understanding were established as a result. Students from 19 countries stayed for various periods in the valley.  South African universities, such as the Universities of Grahamstown and Stellenbosch became involved as well.

julia glenday - livinglands


The research covered all aspects of Baviaanskloof habitation, including fauna, flora, agriculture, tourism, hydrology, ecology, sustainability of a carbon economy, developing of new income streams, and the payment for ecosystem services.  A new mindset, as well as mutual understanding, was established.  The goal was to make more land available for restoration in a sustainable way to the benefit of both nature and the human inhabitants.

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field survey5 with pieter krugerfield survey3 With Julia Glenday and Rebecca Joubert.


projects - baviaanskloof videoFour Returns – Baviaanskloof Youtube video


As a result, the river restoration project, funded by Working For Water and implemented by Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB), began.

The project is a work in progress. The first successes were already evident in 2012. Weirs in the alluvial fans of the tributaries were destroyed with dramatic and positive results for the system.

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–  kicked off with the planting of more than seven million plants, of which Zandvlakte donated five million.  Various training courses were held, and more than 200 people were employed for a period of 4 years.

Livinglands is continuing the project, with a sponsorship of the Coca Cola Africa Foundation. Various restoration projects in the area are currently undertaken with Otto Beukes and Justin Gird as project managers.   The organization is also actively driving similar projects in areas such as the Kromrivier in the Langkloof and the Breerivier in the Western Cape.

Reducing the human footprint in the Baviaanskloof will ultimately provide water security to the Nelson Mandela Metropole.

projects - Livinglands-Otto Beukes
Zandvlakte farm is following a holistic land management plan to expand the wilderness character of the area surrounding it. One of the main aims is to restore the functionality and ecosystems of the catchment area.

projects - john D. Lui short film
Watch this Youtube video: Forest Keep Drylands Working – Short Film by John D. Liu




–  Project established 2016.

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Lavendin in the Baviaanskloof – Youtube video

Four farms established a company, the Baviaanskloof Development Company (DEVCO), with the support of COMMONLAND, LIVINGLAND and GROUNDED for the cultivation of lavender and rosemary for organic essential oils.
Pieter&JohnJohn D. Lui, ambassador for Commonland with Pieter Kruger

A distillery was built for the purpose of producing organic essential oils which will lead to new income streams for the Baviaanskloof, creating long-term job opportunities, and reducing the overgrazing damage by livestock farming.

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Projects - Lavender - nursery ZandvakteProjects - Lavender1 Baviaanskloof DSC_7837
Rosemary seedlings Zandvlakte

Hopefully, dividends from the essential oil-farming project will enable farmers to make more degraded land available for restoration in the water catchment area.

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COMMONLANDLIVINGLAND , GROUNDED and farmers celebrate the completion of the distillery.


2017 December, 11th.
The first rosemary harvest begun on Zandvlakte for the production of organic essential oil
The harvesting machine, ordered from Bulgaria arrived.
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Pieter Kruger’s first decree, when arriving on the farm in 1977, was the banning of the killing of leopards.
In the 1990s Douglas Long arrived on Zandvlakte as a masters-degree student. With limited resources, the first research on leopards was started and spread to neighboring valleys and regions. Television programs such as 50/50 with Johan Botha as presenter,  got involved and contributed to the protection of this magnificent animal in the Baviaanskloof.
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From this a new approach to leopard research was introduced, and with the later support of the Landmark Foundation the project has expanded.

Several motion cameras were established on Zandvlakte which enabled the researchers to discover more information on these magnificent elusive Baviaanskloof big cats.

September 14th, 2014
“After two doggies and 4 geese landed on miss Dottie’s menu, we had to make a plan. So this morning Miss Dottie said hello in the room that we prepared for her Friday afternoon IN OUR GARDEN!

Early this morning we all jumped out of our skins when she announced her arrival with a growl. We’re waiting for the vet and Jeanine MacManus of Landmark Foundation to come and fit her her jewels – a satellite collar. And then she will be released again. But, she wasn’t happy with the blanket we covered her cage with to lessen her stress. She ripped it to pieces for us. So without further adieu……..



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History - leopard research

Later that afternoon, Ms. Dots was brought to the place where she would wake up and meander off into the wild again.

On December 25, 2014, she had two babies.


The Baviaanskloof farmers collected all the gin traps which were later used to create this leopard statue by the Landmark Foundation.


Enjoy some of the motion camera moments on the farm

Leopard taking a leasurely stroll on the farm

A female leopard out for some fun

It is hard to find them during daylight. This one was a star!

Playtime. Camera ….. ACTION!

More playing

Currently the leopards are still actively monitored on Zandvlakte. The hunting and killing of leopards is still strictly prohibited.