For many years, the conservancy's chairman was John Moodie, and the vice chairman was Keith Moodie. Both great men who have been a part of the conservancy since its inception, bringing with them a wealth of conservation and agricultural knowledge. They have both invested significantly in valley conservation as well as community upliftment in the Grootvadersbosch area. We wrote a memorable blog about John Moodie, who stepped down as chairman of the conservancy in 2021. There have recently been changes to the conservancy committee which we summarise in this blog.
Keith Moodie is the new Chairman of the Conservancy's Committee. He was a founding member of the conservancy in 1992, along with John Moodie and Chris Maartens and has remained active in it ever since. Keith took over as chairman of the conservancy after retiring from farming about a year ago.
Keith recently retired from farming after 40 years in the dairy industry. There were always difficult questions in the agriculture sector. Keith mentions that things are changing all the time, and one of the reasons he decided to retire from farming was that he was not doing justice to the new questions that were coming up. He said that it mainly happens when one gets older. Normally, a young mind is not shy to ask the questions but as one gets older, things start to change. Although, his sharp mind and exceptional fitness, drawn from years of trail running, is inspirational for any young mind, he decided it was time for a change. He has extensive knowledge of agriculture, conservation, and the conservancy, and now that he is no longer actively farming, he has more time to devote to the conservancy, which is why he was eager to accept the challenge.
Keith would like to make a positive contribution towards the conservancy. He is determined to keep the conservancy's momentum going and is confident that the staff, committee, and farmers will cooperate. He is excited to serve as a conduit for the ideas and concerns of the conservancy's staff, farmers, and committee members, and he hopes to make a positive contribution to conservation.
He considers himself to be a positive person, but when I asked him to talk about himself, he hesitated. He tells me that he lives by a mantra that he also used in his farming: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Keith is a successful and respected farmer, which he attributes, in part, to sticking to the principled task of keeping the main thing, the main thing.
This piece of wisdom touched me. In ones career, one can easily do many things but one must never lose focus on the main goal. This is a true life-lesson for a conservation student whose mind is constantly wondering and, occasionally, wanders away from the main focus.
Keith admits that it is necessary to maintain focus and avoid distractions, while also maintaining the momentum. Sometimes we think, “oh well, everything is fine” but we do not keep pushing on and challenging ourselves to achieve the main goal.
There is not really anything that Keith wants to change within the conservancy, but he mentioned that conservation and stewardship of the environment is a very dynamic thing. One must stay flexible to change. For example, if something has been done in a certain way last year, it does not mean that we cannot do it differently this year or next year. Keith also states that one must be adaptable and face challenges as they arise. Being opened to change and taking risks is important, but one must also know where to draw the line and how to calculate the risks. We must understand that things around us are going to change.
There will be challenges. Consistent funding is probably one of those challenges and that is why Keith feels that we must be creative and look for other sources of funding. We are appreciative for the funding that we have had up till today, but we cannot rely on that funding alone.
Keith raises another challenge, the younger generation, who are taking over the farms and managing the farms, should be brought in a bit closer to what’s going on. There is also the challenge of getting the family members of the farmers involved in more social activities. We can attract them with walks in the forest and even the general workers and their kids, they need to know what’s going on. Being able to appreciate and enjoy the area that we live in. During last year's lockdown, people discovered that there is a lot of fun to be had outside and in this area. As people became aware of how beautiful and unique the valley truly is, new opportunities arise.
“There are many conservancies that still battle with these issues, and we have come a long way.” says Keith. “We can look back at the last 20-30 years and look at the last 5 years and this area looks so much better, and we can be proud of what we achieved in many areas, including controlling the wattle infestation." Keith has also looked at ariel photos over the years and notes, with pride, that the rivers are more consistent with less wattle. "It doesn’t dry up like it used to, which is something very good".
The interface between agriculture and conservation is vital. The conservancy is reliant on donations and contributions from government and agriculture. In the case of agriculture, consumers want to know more than ever where their food comes from and how it impacts on the environment. Agriculture and conservation must both work hand-in-hand to provide answers to the questions that many consumers now have about how their food is produced. There will always be conflict and disagreements, which is just a bridge that must be crossed. However, as conservationists, we must collaborate with agriculture because the agriculture-conservation interface is critical. We need to keep the main thing the main thing. As a conservancy, we are excited to have Keith assisting us in navigating these new challenges and helping us keep our focus on the right things.
The Vice Chairman
Adrian Fortuin has been appointed as our new vice chairman. A conversation with him reveals that he is a compassionate and helpful person who always feels the need to assist, whether it is with staff or community members. Adrian considers compassion to be his greatest strength because he cares deeply about the environment. As I listened to his calm voice, I was immediately moved by the compassion he was expressing. Whether Adrian is hiking, diving, or snorkeling he really just loves being in and exploring nature.
Adrian accepted the position as the vice chairman because he would love to see a better relationship between agriculture and conservation. He also believes that there is mutual benefit between agriculture and conservation, which is one of the reasons he became involved and agreed to be the Vice Chairman of the conservancy. Adrian works for Cape Nature and is the local Conservation Manager at the Grootvadersbosch nature reserve, Cape Nature. He sees it as a win-win scenario for both the conservancy and Cape Nature.
Adrian explained to me that he would like to contribute to the conservancy by coming up with new ideas, such as improving the income streams for the trails. The trails are an important part of both the conservancy and the nature reserve.
Adrian explains that he believes that a challenge that we face is implementing new ideas, new ways of thinking, and taking on new opportunities and activities. Some ideas may work, while others may not, but we must test and see what will work and what will not. This supports the work of Young (2009) who notes that a person learns from trial and error if they occasionally try new strategies. Adrian admits, just like Keith, that risks must be taken.
Adrian also mentioned that there are great opportunities to explore. He also mentioned Keith’s suggestion of more social get togethers. A get together with more family day activities, with landowners. This will showcase what we do, for example SASS and maybe do a miniSASS with the families or community members, it would be nice to do more hands on activities and to get experts in and showcase these projects to our members.
Adrian is worried about the aliens high up in the catchment areas. The inaccessible areas and he is worried that not enough has been done in these areas. Although he applauds the conservancy for the work already being done but we need to keep going and not lose hope because we can beat the aliens if we continue with it.
When I asked Adrian how he planned to keep the other committee members motivated, he replied, "Sometimes you don't have all the answers, but you can show up, be present and support the other members whenever it is needed.” Being present is another important life lesson for a young, wandering mind.
He knows that he can always draw on the wealth of knowledge of previous committee members and is grateful to be able to go have a cup of coffee with the previous chairman, John Moodie, knowing that John has a wealth of knowledge and is willing to offer advice whenever necessary.
Adrian and Keith are both passionate about the environment and eager to take the conservancy to new heights. They are both committed and determined to bring their wealth of knowledge and expertise to the conservancy, and we are grateful for their time, effort, and commitment. And we owe them our gratitude for their time. We know that with their support, we will be able to keep focused on the main thing- the conservation of our precious Grootvadersbosch valley to benefit nature and people.
Zolkafli, U.K., Zakaria, N., Yahya, Z., Ali, A.S., Akashah, F.W., Othman, M. and Hock, Y.K., 2012. Risks in conservation projects. Journal of Design+ Built, 5(1).
Young, H.P., 2009. Learning by trial and error. Games and economic behavior, 65(2), pp.626-643.
GVB Conservancy Staff