THE HONEYBUSH STORY
Honeybush is the common name for the Cyclopia genus endemic to the Cape Floristic Region—a small area at the tip of Africa with the highest diversity of plant species on earth. The utterly unique flora here is called fynbos, from the Dutch “fine shrubbery”.
For hundreds of years, people have thought honeybush to be an exceptional plant with healing properties. The Khoi and the San peoples, indigenous to South Africa’s Cape region, used the leaves medicinally—for everything from boosting immunity to treating respiratory illnesses like asthma, tuberculosis and pneumonia. Even early colonists arriving from Europe in the 1600s took note of the tea, as we see through historical records from the Eastern Cape’s Langkloof Valley. In modern times, thanks to renewed interest in ancient knowledge, honeybush is making a come-back.
Today, these perennial plants play an important role in this ecosystem—not only within the lives of local communities where honeybush is embedded in tradition, but also in maintaining the delicate biome serving a crucial water catchment area.
A resource under threat
Traditionally, wild stocks could be harvested sustainably from the mountainous regions of the Langkloof. A combination of worsening drought, rapid invasion of alien species, coupled with overharvesting and poaching over the recent past, has put undue pressure on the wild populations; pushing some species to the brink of extinction.
We have instituted sustainable harvesting practices that ensure the wild honeybush populations can continue to thrive on the Langkloof mountains. Detailed resource assessments are done prior to harvesting. These resource assessments are used to quantify the amount of tea that can be harvested sustainably and ensure healthy wild populations are maintained.
Critical to continued sustainable supply of honeybush to market in future is cultivation. Due to the fact that honeybush is an undomesticated, wild crop additional research and development support is required to cultivate this crop successfully. We run regenerative farming trials to test novel biological and organic inputs for suppressing diseases in the cultivated honeybush. Additionally we run selection trials to improve the genetics and quality of seedlings we can deliver to farmers, in an effort to support successful cultivation following regenerative agricultural practices.
We use the results of our research and development programs to help farmers to improve and expand successful cultivation of a traditionally undomesticated crop, following regenerative agricultural practices.