This week we celebrated Heritage Day and while the diversity of our South African heritage is a big part of our appeal as a tourism destination, having many different cultures and languages do require insight, interest and patience when it comes to understanding and appreciating each other. One aspect of heritage we all share is our natural heritage and while it is very special, it involves more than appreciating the natural beauty of our country.
While there is no denying South Africa’s spectacular landscapes and the variety in nature, our concern should be about more than caring about biodiversity and our wealth of fauna and flora. Protecting our natural resources is not only important so that our grand-children can see lions roam free, it is also important from an economic and socio-economic perspective.
Sustainable farming practices, for example, are of the essence when it comes to protecting our natural environment, but it has a much broader effect. In the wine industry for instance, sustainable farming does not only mean that we protect the fynbos species that grow in their original habitat, it also means that – both from a natural resources and economic perspective – we can continue to farm, make and sell wine and employ people. When soils and sources are depleted and yields or quality diminish, farming successfully is a challenge and that affects everything down the line.
The story of winemaking can be very romantic, but good wine starts in the vineyard and in essence, winemaking is agriculture. Winemaking therefore has to make sense on more levels than just wine quality – it has to be economically viable and it has to be done in a way that does not harm the environment. If we can be successful and sustainable when it comes to farming with grapes and making wine, we have the ability to do more. We can, for instance, introduce tourism experiences. Through these experiences we create more employment, can do a better job at upliftment and we can create more awareness for our natural environment.
It is, however, impossible to add value when the basics are not in place. While one might be sensitive to sustainability, it doesn’t just happen – it takes consideration and commitment. You need a strategy, an action plan and buy-in from all involved. An inclusively sustainable business model is essential. Sustainability extends to all areas of your business. On the wine farm, in the vineyards and cellar this means practices like removing alien vegetation, the responsible use of resources, soil, water and waste management, an emphasis on carbon footprint and a balanced eco-system. When it comes to your people, sustainability means education, training and support to ensure empowerment and upliftment. Wine tourism creates awareness for the importance of sustainability and guests to wine estates can experience all these efforts, whether they enjoy the wine or cuisine of the beauty of fynbos on a hiking trail or nature walk.
In the end, such a sustainable focus on all systems and procedures enables you to be a sustainable unit in the production of wine, the offering of a tourism experience and a source of employment for the local community. Sustainability, when practiced in this way, results in a continued economic contribution to the local community.