A term that is being used abundantly by many companies to describe a type of method for a wide variety of activities. At WelMac we operate on sustainable methods from intrinsic motivations throughout the whole value chain. We believe that in order to produce a top grade product year after year, on a consistently high level, a farm or a business has to be run in a way that gives back as much as it takes. This applies for the people we work with as well as the land we work on and the environment we farm in. Our biggest impact at the moment is setting an example on farm level for other farmers, where we show that we can produce bigger, better and more nuts with less water, fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides. Meanwhile we are absorbing more CO2 then we emit and reinstating indigenous trees and wildlife, giving the ecosystem a chance to thrive. For us sustainability is a conviction, not just a label.
One of the main issues in South Africa, as well as in many other countries, is the scarce availability of water and how to manage it with maximum efficiency. Countries like Australia have had to deal with droughts for a long time and also in South Africa we are seeing less rain over the years as well as a change in the general climate. WelMac is setting an example for other farmers, where we show that by using the correct systems, measuring, monitoring and studying data from the farm and applying good practises, we produce for years on end the highest quality and quantity of nuts in the area whilest using only 35% of the amount of water that is considered industry standard.
As it doesn't make a lot of difference if only WelMac reduces her water usage by 65%, by opening our gates for other farmers and sharing our knowledge, we hope to show them and convince them, that it is also possible for them to achieve such results. That is why we have organised farmers days and study groups at our farm, to show how our operation is run and inspire others to follow our example.
In 2019 we started construction of a solar power grid that would make us practically independent from the national power grid. The whole project will be completed in 2 phases as the farm grows. Currently the solar panels installed will provide us with sufficient power to supply the whole farm and processing facility with sufficient electricity. When the farm grows and more pump-houses are installed as well as when an expansion on the processing facility is realised, additional panels can be added to increase the capacity.
When WelMac started operating Welgevonden Farm, the majority of the farm was overgrown with invasive weeds and unindiginous trees that were soaking up a lot of water. This growth was also preventing wildlife from moving into the area, as the weeds just made the bush inpenetrable. In several projects and working together with the local tribe, we have started clearing the farm of these weeds and trees, enabling wildlife to return. By removing trees like the eucalyptus, which are not indigenous in South Africa and absorb a lot of water, several new springs have come up. We used them to create small dams for animals to drink from, both small and large. In the past few years we have seen an impressive increase in birdlife as well as several type of buck roaming our orchards.
On the farm we will remain with about 230 hectares that is not suitable for planting Macadamia trees, our goal is to set up a protected sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife, that is currently having trouble finding suitable areas to live.
Bees and other pollinators
Most people know how important bees are to agriculture and in many places in the world efforts are being undertaken to help increase the population. On our farm we are also doing our best to increase the population of these amazing creatures. We are building hives and providing an environment the bees and other pollinators can thrive in. The use of chemicals to spray for the stinkbug and nut-borer, two of the main pests that can damage your macadamia crop, is diminished as much as possible. When we do have to spray, we do it at night when the bees are not active.
We have also started a project where we are planting indigenous trees around our orchards, in the areas where we cannot grow macadamias, that flower during different times from the macadamia trees. This way there is plenty of nutrients available for the pollinators on the farm, but when the macadamias flower they are encouraged to move into the orchards.
Over the years many hectares of indigenous forest has been removed in order to provide land for grazing cattle, wood for fires or space for growing crops. First and foremost, WelMac makes sure that no forests are cleared to plant our macadamia trees.
WelMac also offers the local community the opportunity to remove small shrubs and young trees that are not protected or indigenous from our farm, to use for their fires or sell as firewood. We hope this prevents people from having to illegally source their wood from local reserves. We also offer our unused hectares for the local community to graze their cattle and teach them about the importance of perserving the local forests.
By removing invasive trees, that often consume an enormous amount of water, we see water flowing in places not seen before. We construct dams to slow the flow of water, to prevent erosion and provide a watercourse for wildlife. This also helps to attract beneficial insects and improve the microclimate.
WelMac thrives towards reinstating natural habitat on Welgevonden on the hectares that are not suitable for farming macadamias. Where there was an almost total absence of wildlife when WelMac started farming at Welgevonden, we have noticed all types of wild animals finding their way back. By removing weeds and planting indigenous trees we are providing a habitat for birdlife as well as waterbuck, monkeys, wild pigs and porcupines. Currently WelMac is growing Bushwillow, Boabab, Marula and Weeping Bean trees in our own nursery, to be planted out in the farm. We will also visit the nursery in Kruger National Park, to acquire trees that are indigenous to the area but currently very hard to find in the area. The Moringa tree, which is not indigenous but not considered invasive, will also be planted around the farm as it has medicinal purposes and so can be made use of.