Nature's Valley Trust has been established by Nature's Valley inhabitants to ensure its preservation.
Situated 30km from Plettenberg Bay and completely surrounded by the De Vasselot section of the Tsitsikamma National Park, Nature's Valley is a unique village.
The town's property owners established the Nature's Valley Trust (NVT) in December 2000 to proactively maintain the environmental integrity of the village and the surrounding area. They appointed a fulltime project manager Julie Carlisle, who has done local conservationists proud.
When the trust was established a whole lot of research was done for a status report that would identify the key issues that had to be tackled to preserve the valley. It also identified all legislation that pertained to it.
Four projects were initiated including research, conservation, community projects and environmental education.
Research in the Salt River rendered the accidental discovery of 16 species of aquatic insects that dated to the pre-historic era. The insects had hardly evolved for 150 million years and lived almost undisturbed because of the few fish in the river. The Salt River has a relatively high acidic level, which have so far also contributed to the insects' preservation.
The Nature's Valley Trust hit headlines last year after raising concern regarding the extension of a governmental housing project upstream at Kurland Village. The Trust was among concerned and affected parties that feared the development might affect the acidity of the water and possibly threaten the newly discovered insects. It now serves on the environmental liaison committee that monitors the development, which have started recently.
The Trust acquired funding to train people from Kurland to become eco-guides, which would not only benefit the local community financially but also raise environmental awareness in the village.
The Trust have recently appointed a consultant to oversee proposed and current development in Nature's Valley's two rivers' catchments to ensure that impact of development could be lessened.
They are also working closely with SAN Parks to research the Groot River estuary, also known as the Nature's Valley Lagoon, in a long-term project. One of the aspects that are continually monitored is the water level of the lagoon when the mouth is not open. If the lagoon gets to a certain, measured, level the mouth of the river is mechanically opened.
The trust's most significant conservation project so far was the establishment of the Nature's Valley Fynbos Reserve and the reintroduction of the threatened Brenton Blue Butterfly to the area. The reserve, which is a relatively small patch of rehabilitated fynbos in the heart of the village, is a representative example of a type that is close to extinction. It is also the host site for several environmental education programmes and recently witnessed the first phase of the reintroduction of the Brenton Blue. The butterfly have lived here before but had not been spotted in the region since the 1980s. The fynbos was burnt in the reserve, in the hope that the butterfly's host plant will flourish enough to provide sufficient food and habitat for its larvae. The plants are back and the butterfly will hopefully be back soon.
The trust's programmes also involve several outdoor education activities and hikes on trails in the Nature's Valley area. The programmes, which have been printed in colour and in book form, involve children from pre-school to high school. The local schools are also involved in national environmental programmes such as Adopt-A-Beach and Edu-Schools.
The trust today has 300 members including Nature's Valley homeowners, community organisations and conservation partners. Members do not pay membership fees but are asked to make donations.
Its latest project was the official registration of the entire town as an urban conservancy.
With the help of the Nature's Valley Ratepayers Association, Nature's Valley Trust would like to see homeowners take responsibility by planting indigenous, erecting sensitive lighting and observing good waste management.
Nearly five years after its inception, the trust is starting to see the fruits of their labour. The levels of awareness of the community who live in the village as well as those upstream have raised significantly. Projects are starting to come to fruition and conservation projects are eventually starting to show results. The Trust hope to continue the good work and keep Nature's Valley the beautiful and unique place it is.