Vergenoegd Water Bird Habitat and Water Conservation Project

Creating habitat for indigenous water birds and, by so doing, improving water quality and hydrological functioning in agricultural landscapes. Throughout South Africa and across the world wetland habitats and the biodiversity they support are under threat.

In the Western Cape a few conservation partners and like-minded private land owners are planning to reverse this trend. Vergenoegd Wine Estate, the project initiator, receives much value from its flock of 1200 Indian Runner ducks in charge of pest control on the farm, a practice they have been refining since 1984. This has inspired Vergenoegd to approach conservation partners to discuss how they could support conservation efforts for their working duck’s indigenous cousins. From these conversations, the Vergenoegd water bird habitat and water conservation project was born.

How will this project work?
Broadly the project aims to re-establish and rehabilitate habitat for indigenous water birds on farm dams across the Province, whilst also improving water resources. Unemployed individuals will be contracted to propagate plants, build islands and plant the edges of farm dams. These environmental projects will be combined with training of farm managers and labourers to implement key maintenance and monitoring activities. Furthermore, it is hoped that the improved environment not only benefits biodiversity and water security, but also provides additional income to the farm and socio-economic opportunities to the farm labourers through avi-tourism.

The first component of this project involves the pilot construction, propagation and installation of floating islands on farm dams. These islands have been designed by a horticultural professional and only use locally indigenous wetlands plants to provide feeding, breeding and roosting habitat for birds. At the same time baseline bird and water quality monitoring will be conducted so as to be able to determine the impacts of the floating islands over time. The project team are also drafting a guideline document for landowners that explains how to create or restore water bird habitat on and around farm dams using floating islands and wetland landscaping. After being refined through this pilot project, the guideline document will be distributed widely through our project partners and a large-scale Working for Wetlands project proposal will be submitted to upscale the job creation and ecological impacts.

How can I get involved?
In this first phase of the project the partners are seeking pilot sites to test implementation. The pilot sites will require a small financial input from landowners to cover the materials required for the construction of the floating islands. Landowners will also be requested to monitor the islands and provide feedback to the project team.

Contact information
To get involved in this project contact:
Dale Wright at BirdLife South Africa - E. westerncape@birdlife.org.za
Andrew Purnell at NCC Environmental Services - E. andrewp@ncc-group.co.za
Sean Altern at NCC Environmental Services - E. seana@ncc-group.co.za

Read more HERE