South Africa: Improving Water Balance in the Southern Cape Hops-growing Region

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SAB, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa, National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)


Africa, farmers have successfully been growing hops for beer production for over 80 years. South African Breweries (SAB), South Africa’s biggest brewing company, owns and manages three hops farms here and sources from eight independent farmers. The company sources the majority of its hops (around 70%) from this area and is highly dependent on this resource for its operations, as imports are much more costly.

In recent years, water has become a concern for the Southern Cape. The region suffered a severe drought from 2008 to 2011 during which many dams and reservoirs ran completely dry. There is increasing competition for surface and groundwater from expansion of local agricultural activities as well as from expanding towns such as Dysselsdorp, Oudtshoorn and George. Rapidly spreading invasive alien trees drain water resources even further. Climate change predictions paint an even bleaker picture: according to George Municipality’s recent situational analysis, an increase in rainfall variability and intensity, together with higher temperatures and evaporation, will increase flood risk and possibly reduce river flow and groundwater recharge.

The hops farms, situated in two catchments (Waboomskraal and Herolds), rely heavily on groundwater and surface water from local mountain catchments for irrigation. Water scarcity poses a significant risk to this part of SAB’s supply chain, therefore the company wishes to contribute to catchment-wide actions to reduce the water risks it shares with other catchment actors.


Approach and Objectives

In 2010, SAB partnered with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and WWF-SA to investigate possible interventions. The first phase of the partnership identified thousands of hectares of invasive alien tree species as one of the main threats to water availability in the area. Furthermore, studies revealed that groundwater abstraction is not properly monitored and that there is room for improvement for on-farm water-use efficiency.

During this project phase, partners secured farmers’ buy-in for the partnership and mapped 4,634ha of invasive alien vegetation. In 2014, the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP), SAB and WWF entered a second phase to implement the identified measures to reduce water risk in the catchment.


IWaSP and SAB committed EUR200,000 to the partnership to implement the following measures:

1) Invasive alien tree clearing
Upfront monetary commitments by IWaSP and SAB led to the DEA making an additional EUR380,000 available to clear the invasive trees. By early 2016, over 250ha have been cleared by formerly unemployed people living in and around George, Oudtshoorn and Dysselsdorp. Employment criteria is strict to ensure equal opportunities for women in this project. Landowners support efforts by providing farm equipment and by committing to keep the land clear after initial clearing efforts.

2) Groundwater monitoring
Loggers have been installed on participating farmers’ land to monitor groundwater levels. This information will supplement measurements taken by the Department of Water and Sanitation to collectively gather long-term data for appropriate groundwater management.

3) Catchment-wide efforts
Project partners have been working with landowners in the two catchments to promote stewardship; supporting on-farm efficiency and motivating them to collectively engage catchment actors on their shared water risks. In 2016, farmers will be introduced to the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) certification process and will participate in a knowledge exchange workshop with fruit farmers on the western end of the Breede– Gouritz catchment management area, who are engaged in another IWaSP partnership.


Challenges and Outlook

The extremely high cost of clearing, the steep terrain in some areas and the large amounts of biomass that is left in the mountains after clearing has challenged the process. This dead biomass poses a fire risk and project partners are investigating possible innovative solutions for turning the unwanted wood into a resource. Efforts are being made to create an established water stewardship network amongst role-players in the area to ensure the collaborative action continues beyond 2016.

Country Set-up

In South Africa, IWaSP is anchored in GIZ’s Centre for Cooperation with the Private Sector (CCPS), an umbrella unit of different programmes which aims to promote cooperation with the private sector. It is based at the GIZ office in Pretoria.

IWaSP is an international water security programme which combines global best practices in water stewardship with local know-how. Currently active in seven countries, the six-year programme (2013-2018) facilitates partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and civil society to address shared water risks, while improving stakeholders’ use and management of water and building their capacity to develop their own solutions. GIZ manages IWaSP on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID).


Contact Information

Dr Nicole Kranz
Hatfield Gardens Office Park Block C,
333 Grosvenor Street, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028