Boschendal’s natural beauty is legendary and as the farm’s environmental custodian, Leon Adams, is on a daily quest to keep it that way.
With a mandate to protect, maintain and conserve the estate’s pristine habitats and natural heritage, he has his work cut out for him. Together with his teams, Leon spends a great deal of his time identifying and removing the invasive alien vegetation that is particularly prevalent on higher slopes and those parts of the estate destined for cultivation. The destructive, non-indigenous flora, planted way before his time, is enemy number one, preventing the growth of indigenous species and posing serious threats from flooding and wildfires to soil erosion and clogged wetlands. Boschendal is, fortuitously, located within the Cape Floral Kingdom, a biodiversity hotspot and World Heritage Site, making the removal of non-endemics even more of a priority. It’s a tough job that this energetic earth warrior takes in his stride.
The dense banks of black wattle, blue gum and Port Jackson trees are a mission to remove but Leon is turning the tide against the irksome foliage. As challenging as the task is, it’s the eco end game that counts and that’s what motivates him. “The transformation is remarkable,” he beams, explaining about the rehabilitation process. “After we’ve stripped a section, we give the ground time to recover and that can take a minimum of two years.” Once the trees are gone the land starts to breathe again and natural water sources are liberated. “Incredible things happen as Nature rights herself,” he explains. “We now have four new significant streams of water flowing into the river all year round.” Another positive is the wealth of bird life, attracted by the return of iconic fynbos species like proteas, and wild peach and almond trees. Without the impenetrable alien thickets in the way, wildlife is also able to move around more freely and Boschendal’s camera traps have frequently recorded sightings of caracals and Cape Leopard.
Leon has been at Boschendal for five years although his connection goes back much further. “My grandmother worked here when the estate was still owned by Anglo American. I grew up around the corner – Boschendal was my playground and since I was a boy I have always loved the mountain.” He has always had an affinity with the land. “I wanted to learn all I could about it and went on so many courses to educate myself about everything from fynbos to snake handling. You name it, I did it.”
Leon’s portfolio extends to other projects that incorporate conservation and composting, as well as lending his expertise to the irrigation, water management and landscaping teams. “There are so many positives coming out of all of our processes,” he said, reiterating Boschendal’s commitment to sustainability and low carbon footprint. “Even the felled trees are upcycled as compost or repurposed into wood chips for mulch. Everything has its purpose.”