After many decades of being a steadfast leader for conservation in the Grootvadersbosch Valley, our chairman (John Moodie) is stepping down. “It was exiting to work with people and find new ways to conserve the environment, but fresh input and new ideas are important. “ says John Moodie. John has been chairman of the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy since 1992 and has seen the organisation start and mature. For John, it was a pleasure to see the growth in the organisation and how it has transformed to not just be keepers of the ecosystem but working toward a common goal of protecting the ecosystem.
The thought at the start was that a state-owned nature reserve is not enough to conserve this important natural ecosystem and there needed to be other ways in which the environment can be conserved on private land, mainly focusing on alien clearing and fire management. John Moodie, along with Chris Maartens (from Cape Nature at the time) and Keith Moodie’s father Lindsey Moodie put their heads together and started the first Conservancy in the Western Cape in the 90’s. One of the aims was for landowners, in particular, to buy into the project. From the start, it has been a farming community that joins forces with a non-profit trust to promote conservation on private land and that is still how it operates today, although in a different way now. We have 4 permanent staff and much larger budget which mainly goes towards employing people to clear alien vegetation.
Today, the services that the conservancy perform have also broaden to include protecting river species, forest restoration, training as well as environmental education projects and all in a non-profit trust.
When I asked John what he has gained from being the chair, he smiled and asked, “How does one measure gain?” I smiled, awkwardly. As a student to conservation, I certainly don’t really know what answer to give. I waited intently for insight from someone who has been in conservation for so many years. I was eager to learn from years of experience, in conservation and agriculture. “You implement,” he said. “Sometimes, something works and sometimes it doesn’t. You loose and you win and learn from it and know what to do or what to apply next. Conservation has to be about doing and not just about talking about doing.”
He reflected further on the many years and experiences of being a chair. “While being the chair, I had good years of experience and growth. I’ve enjoyed the festivals (thee silver mountain music festival), trail runs, conferences and events that I’ve attended or been part of while being part of the conservancy. It was always good and always exiting. I am immensely proud of the many awards that the conservancy has achieved, while I was on board. There have been mistakes and challenges, but we kept on learning and doing.”
I asked John what makes this organisation different from others. He reflected that the organisation has three different pillars that work together-the conservancy landowners, the trustees of the trust and the implementing team or staff. This is a unique and important synergy.
The next unique aspect that stood out for him was the fact that landowner do not reap direct financial benefit from this organisation but are positive about the work of the conservancy in terms of alien clearing, tourism, and fire management. This work does increase the value of the land but there are not always direct financial returns.
John was hesitant to offer advice for a new chairperson but said he would rather not dictate how the next person does his or her work but rather offered to make himself available for help and advice. “Let there be room for mistakes, learn from them and become wiser.” Thankfully, John is still on the conservancy committee and so we still have access to his wisdom from many years of experience in the valley.
We are incredibly lucky to have had such a wise, steadfast and influential chair in the conservancy for so long and pleased that he is still at hand to assist whenever needed. The conservancy is deeply grateful for all the time that John has volunteered to lead the organisation and we certainly would not be where we are without him. We hope that he will now have more time to enjoy the restful beauty of the valley that he loves so much.
GVB Conservancy Staff