Our Cape Flora Bouquet is arranged from wild foliage and seasonal flowers sustainably harvested from Flower Valley in the Agulhas region of South Africa. The Cape floral kingdom is the smallest plant kingdom in the world but contains the highest known concentration of plant species - more than 9,000 plant species make up the region, 6,000 of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
A decade ago, the flower filled lands of the Agulhas were under serious threat. Farmers faced economic ruin unless markets for wild Fynbos (otherwise known as Protea, the national flower of South Africa) could be developed internationally. Without a steady income for the farmers, vines or citrus orchards would be planted and the fynbos plants dug up and destroyed. Flora and Fauna International (FFI) recognised this threat to the area and embarked on a project which would merge conservation with social and financial benefits for the local population.
FFI started by purchasing the Flower Valley farm and established a South African Trust to help initiate a flower growing and bouquet making operation. A business model was created to develop sustainable harvesting programs and techniques among farmers, with modern marketing programs producing a sustainable future.
In 2003 Fynsa (Pty) Ltd was set up to help the trust by handling the operations, marketing and international sales. With help from the Shell Foundation, the projects objectives are now in full bloom.
Fynbos farmers pick their flowers and foliage according to requirements set by the Trust. Careful records of growth patterns are maintained and certificates of competence awarded. On a daily basis the flowers are harvested and delivered to the Fynsa packing sheds at Flower Valley where they are made into bouquets.
In peak season, the packing shed provides employment for up to 70 workers; add to these a substantial number of pickers and the total reaches 150 people. The economic benefits of this activity to the local community are substantial and are one of the key aims set by the Fynsa founders.
Lydia van Riet is one of the certified suppliers to Fynsa. With her team harvesting flowers in the hills and valleys of the Agulhas Plain, Lydia started picking fynbos and clearing alien vegetation for the Flower Valley Conservation Trust. When Fynsa expanded its network of suppliers, Lydia jumped at the chance and has been supplying Fynsa for the past two years.
The picking teams harvest fynbos by hand and transport it to the pack shed, where the quality is carefully checked before the bouquet makers can set to work. Each bouquet must meet exact standards of size, length and weight. Bouquets are checked by quality controllers before being packed and cooled for transport to their destinations. Pickers, supervisors and landowners receive training on sustainable harvesting and operators are audited against minimum labour and employment conditions. They are required to implement an improvement plan and, ultimately, to be certified.
Three ladies have been managing the daily operations for the past three years and are assisted by a bouquet making team which is 90% female. The supervisor, Magdalena Jacobs, was out of work three years ago and computer illiterate when her mother approached Fynsa on her behalf for a position. From starting out as a bouquet maker, it only took her six months to be put in charge of quality and it was not long before she was appointed to the role of operational supervisor. Today, Magdalena corresponds via email to clients all over the world and is an experienced administrator. She has achieved all of this at the young age of 21 and now has a bright career ahead of her.