The Responsible Wool/Mohair Standard in the MZCPE

April 15, 2021

The Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment (MZCPE) works with a large number of private landowners across the Karoo landscape. Most of the landowners are stock farmers and many farm merino sheep and angora goats. The area is known for its wool and mohair production. 


Angora goats in the Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment (Image: Bronwyn Botha)

The textile industry has been encouraging producers to adopt the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). In March 2020 Mohair South Africa launched the Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS) developed by the global non-profit, Textile Exchange.

The RWS/RMS is an assurance programme with indicators in place to promote best practice in the industry. It assures the supply chain and end consumer that the products sourced are not to the detriment of the people, animals or the environment. Farms are certified in terms of the Animal Welfare, Land Management and Social Welfare Modules. 

The Animal Welfare Module assesses the quality of life of the animals and how they are managed and handled. The Land Management Module looks at the impact on the environment, assessing the condition of the veld and how the effects of the farming activity on the ecosystem are being managed. The Social Welfare Module assesses the working conditions to ensure workers are treated fair, are safe and suitably skilled. RWS/RMS certified farmers are better positioned to access premium product prices and niche markets.

Farmers who are part of the MZCPE are committed to a management plan that primarily focusses on the conservation, but also includes socio-economic development objectives. The management plan has been developed with assistance of the GEF-5 PA Project. 


Angora goats at the foot of Tandjiesberg (Image: Bronwyn Botha)

With the wool and other industries paying more attention to environmental management, the MZCPE management plan can play a more significant role. The RWS/RMS indicators were compared with the MZCPE management plan objectives and it was found that they complemented each other. However, the question was how one could use the MZCPE management plan to achieve the land management indicators of the RWS/RMS on a property by property basis as farmers are assessed by RWS/RMS individually. This is when the MZCPE Management Plan Tool was born. 

The tool is an electronic management system, developed to be used by farmers individually based on their specific property needs. It therefore applies to all farmers in the landscape and not only wool/mohair farmers.


Angora goats under supervision. (Image: Mohair South Africa)

The tool consists of three main sections. The notes section describes the programme situation or status in the MZCPE. The plan section identifies the programme objectives, actions and indicators. The assessment section is a register that farmers can use to record data, identify priority focus areas to manage for the next year and to track implementation. The tool has built-in guidance notes explaining how to complete the assessments. Each programme has its own set of built-in resources the farmers can use to help them identify management strategies to implement. 

The MZCPE management plan tool is currently being tested with farmers. Workshops are planned to further refine the tool as farmers provide their inputs. Other industry stakeholders who have seen the tool expressed great interest. The next step is to engage directly with the relevant stakeholders of the supply chain to get their recommendations and buy-in of the tool. The tool originally only addressed the Land Management Module, but by request of some landowners, work is currently underway on possibly adding the Animal and Social Welfare Modules to the MZCPE Management Plan Tool.


Merino sheep in the landscape (Image: Bronwyn Botha)

Farmers committed to formally conserving their properties as part of the MZCPE for the generations to come are now seeing how conservation can benefit their businesses, not just their veld. The partnership developing between industry and the MZCPE is a big step towards promoting long term environmental sustainability.