The Val De Vie Philosophy: Preserve. Protect. Enhance. Restore. Manage. Sustain.
Unlike many other lifestyle estates, Val de Vie embraces a responsible and nurturing socio-environmental ethos. We are immensely proud of our achievements, not only in having transformed the lives of those who previously lived under abject conditions on the original Kliprug Farm, but also in breathing new life into once-sterile land that was damaged by intensive fruit farming and clay mining.
By dedicating ourselves to this ongoing initiative to revitalise both people and place, we have uplifted the local community and made significant strides towards preserving rare indigenous flora and fauna. We have created a benevolent habitat in the Berg River Valley that allows threatened species to thrive in the protected environment of a prestigious residential enclave.
In the words of founder Martin Venter, our mission is “to leave a legacy that will have a lasting, positive impact on the Berg River valley as a whole”.
As a result, Val de Vie Estate is widely acknowledged as an outstanding example of eco-friendly development within the current South African context.
New homes (and jobs) for the old
Re-housing of Farm Workers
When the development of Val de Vie Estate began on Kliprug Farm in 2006, the first consideration was to address the housing needs of the resident farm labourers, who had long been living in overcrowded, insanitary dwellings which lacked basic amenities such as electricity and indoor plumbing.
109 men, women and children were relocated and re-housed in 17 homes around Paarl and Wellington, which had been especially purchased, renovated and furnished for this purpose. Special arrangements were also made to accommodate senior citizens and orphans from the farm worker community at relevant institutions.
The entire process (overseen by a specialist personnel consulting firm), was undertaken by Val de Vie at a cost of over R7, 5 million and for the first time the workers are now the proud home owners.
Skills Training and Job Creation
As part of an ongoing, sustainable worker upliftment and empowerment programme, Val de Vie aims to invest in and nurture its human resources, including the complement of existing farm labourers. In an attempt to integrate these workers into the infrastructure of the Estate on a sustainable basis, Val de Vie embarked on an extensive programme that included hands-on training for a variety of new jobs which either arose, or were created as development progressed.
Opportunities included work in the newly-established vineyards and polo fields, as well as a variety of general estate maintenance positions. These later grew to encompass the restaurant, cellar and equestrian facilities.
In addition, life-skills workshops were presented on relevant topics such as health and hygiene, communication, productivity and substance abuse.
Greening our valley (Adding Ecological Joie de Vivre to Val de Vie)
A major part of the Berg River valley falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom (a proclaimed World Heritage Site), and before actual development of the Estate began, eco-conscious Val de Vie Chairman, Martin Venter, worked in close conjunction with the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. Stringent guidelines were formulated to preserve, protect, enhance, restore, manage and sustain the degraded agricultural and industrial area's remaining natural assets. After intensive independent studies had been conducted to assess environmental impact, an Operational Environmental Management Plan was drawn up and scrupulously adhered to, both during and after the construction phase.
Rare Plant Rescue Mission
One of the first steps was to rescue over 3 000 plants and bulbs (including rare and vulnerable flora), which were replanted into a dedicated conservation area. The soil was stabilised with Carpobrotus edulis, an indigenous succulent groundcover and “pioneer plant” from the Mesembyanthemum family, also known as the Vygie or Sour fig.
Rehabilitating the River
In line with Val de Vie's holistic biodiversity programme, the rehabilitation of the Berg River bank bordering the Estate was another priority. Primary invasive alien vegetation (particularly the Black Wattle, Acacia mearnsii) was removed in partnership with the government agency, Working for Water, and replaced with indigenous stream-bank vegetation to counter soil erosion and encourage local wildlife. This eradication and replanting initiative is ongoing, and the previously threatened Black or Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) has once again been sighted in the river – an excellent indication of a healthy eco-system!
Landscaping in Val de Vie is strictly done according to an environmentally-approved plan, and naturally occurring water-wise vegetation has been incorporated into the overall design and layout, wherever possible. Our ultimate aim is not only to create an aesthetically pleasing and ecologically sound environment for residents to enjoy, but also to attract a flourishing population of local wildlife.
From Dongas to Dams
Where deep, unsightly clay mines used for brick-making once existed, five interlinked perpetual flow feature dams were created. These are sustained by the run-off from mountain streams, underground seepage and water pumped from the Berg River, and now teem with fish, as well as an increasing number of bird species such as water-fowl.
Val de Vie has its own boreholes as well as water rights along the Berg River. Responsible water management is implemented at all times. Strict precautions are taken to minimise the environmental impact of the Polo fields, and a customised water collection system is in place to prevent seepage of the fertilised drainage.
We are also launching floating islands into our dams to create a beneficial wetland environment. Using the latest technology from BioHaven® Floating Islands, these green islands will provide a valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as improve the quality of the water.
The Sewerage Treatment facility developed by EDP and operated by Drakenstein Municipality recently won an Award of Excellence awarded by WISA. This world-class facility is functioning on purely biological processes, making the use of added chemicals obsolete.
Flora and Fauna: Looking into the Future
Two demarcated conservation areas have been established on the North side of Val de Vie Estate. The smaller reserve is close to the river and covers an area of roughly 1ha. It forms a significant and valuable remnant of the original indigenous Berg River vegetation. To protect the delicate ecological balance, this is a restricted-access zone and alien vegetation is removed by hand.
Three rare and threatened “Red Data List” species (now known as Species of Conservation Concern) have been recorded in this unique nature reserve. These are:
• Clay Conebush – Leucadendron lanigerum lanigerum (Endangered)
• Channel-leaf Sugarbush – Protea scorzonerifolia (Vulnerable)
• Ruschia diversifolia (A succulent of the Mesembryanthemum family – of least concern, but awaiting re-assessment.)
The second reserve is much larger and is designated as a wilderness area. It includes an extensive landscaped Fynbos garden, complete with a network of footpaths and convenient resting spots that allow residents to enjoy the scenery.
Val de Vie is proud to have pioneered the reintroduction of formerly indigenous game into the Berg River valley. After a joint feasibility study conducted with Cape Nature Conservation in 2010, a fenced 4.3ha natural grazing area was established. The Estate now boasts its own herd of indigenous antelope - Springbok, Antidorcas marsupialis as well as zebra, Kaapse Grysbok (an endangered species) and Bontebok. All additions are made in consultation with Cape Nature Conservation and with their full endorsement.
As part of our environmentally-conscious philosophy, Val de Vie encourages residents to recycle as much of their household waste as possible. The Estate boasts its own glass and paper recycling banks.
Garden refuse is collected weekly by our landscapers and turned into compost. This is reused to provide nutrient-rich soil for the Estate, thereby continuing to beautify and sustain our own gardens and conservation areas.
The "No fly by day" Operation
Biological Pest Control
Val de Vie utilises an innovative natural agent to control the fly population. As every horse-lover knows, flies can be a huge nuisance to our four-footed friends (not to mention their two-legged companions), especially in the heat of the Boland summer!
The solution comes in the form of a tiny parasitic wasp (Muscidifurax raptor), whose favoured environment is damp dung-heaps and wet feed, both of which are breeding sites for flies.
The adult wasp stings and kills the fly pupa, allowing it to lay an egg in the pupal case. When the egg hatches, the wasp larva dines on the fly’s freshly-dead offspring with relish. Within just 19 to 21 days, an M. raptor adult emerges from the fly's pupal case and begins its search for more fly pupae on which to feed and deposit eggs.
These insects are purchased in their larval stage and hung above the Val de Vie stables. The little wasps then fall into the straw bedding and dramatically reduce the fly population by breaking their lifecycles, without the need for costly, environmentally-destructive chemical control.
Recent international research has indicated that Muscidifurax raptor also eliminates fruit flies in vineyards, making it an even greater asset to the Estate!
Getting greener by the day...
New Vineyard Savvy
As a working wine farm, Val de Vie is aware of global shifts in more ethical and environmentally responsible vineyard management. As a result, we endeavour to maintain the lowest possible levels of Glyphosate herbicide. We favour organic fertilisers and utilise seedling crops as “green manure”. We also use tractors as seldom as possible during weed-spraying, and practice regulated phytosanitary removal of weed residues in order to avoid contamination.