Midlands Region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Challenges · Biodiversity · Climate Change · Water

Landscape Profile

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Midlands Region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Approximate size (hectares)

Approximately 3,000,000


SusFarMS project will engage about 20,000 smallholder farmers from 2014-2018


Subtropical Arid, Warm Semiarid

Production Systems



South Africa’s Midlands Region of KwaZulu-Natal is located outside of Pietermaritzburg up to the Drakensberg mountain range. Dotted with small towns, inhabitants of this relatively rural area engage in farming, particularly of sugar and wine grapes, livestock cultivation, forestry, and the tourism industry. The area’s natural forests and grasslands host zebras, giraffes, antelope, and other diverse wildlife. Sugar production and other agricultural activities have put particular pressure on water resources, contributing to water supply depletion, sedimentation, groundwater contamination, and biodiversity loss. There is strong potential for improved watershed stewardship among landscape partners.

Collaborators including WWF-SA, the Mondi Wetlands Programme, the Noodsberg Canegrowers Association, and other partners formed the Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System (SusFarMS) Initiative to address this challenge. By 2018, the project aims to ensure that all sugarcane produced in the Noodsberg area is verified as sustainably produced and sourced, meeting the expectations of end buyers and also protecting the sustainability of sugarcane production and associated landscapes and livelihoods. Through guidelines on best management practices, an extension program to engage farmers, and tools to support tracking progress through self-audits on social, economic, and environmental factors, SusFarMS will work to improve natural resource stewardship in the Midlands Region.

Voices From The Field

We decided the sugar industry in South Africa needed to develop its own sustainable management system. The big buyers are going to be demanding sustainability and traceability, and we knew that sooner or later something like FSC certification would come our way. We wanted to build something from the bottom up, developed by the grower for the grower. Where growers are using SusFarMS in our area, you can see that farms are improving and they’re getting more tonnes per hectares.

Lotar Schulz Farmer and SusFarMS program participant

Major Successes


Providing a platform

SusFarMS provides a platform for cane farmers to engage with other land users, including the forestry industry.

Working Together

SusFarMS partners include the Noodsberg Canegrowers, UCL Company, Eston Mill Group Board, Illovo Sugar, South African Cane Growers’ Association, South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI), SABMiller, and Solidaridad.

Initiative efforts were spurred by farmers and companies in the region interested in improving their natural resources stewardship to create shared value, manage resource and reputational risks, and build resilient, multifunctional landscapes. Workshops were held as early as 2004 to connect stakeholders from government, civil society, and agribusiness. These dialogues led to the establishment of SuSFarMS. Farmers’ participation in the program is voluntary. If they elect to take part, they can audit their practices and compare their performance to others around economic, social, and environmental principles.

The SusFarMS initiative is complementary to the larger Water Futures Partnership efforts of SABMiller, GIZ, and WWF. Across eight countries, including South Africa, this program is working to make the business case for water stewardship and engage companies in public-private-civil watershed collaboration to mange shared risks.

To learn more about the project, please visit the WWF Mondi Wetlands Programme website.

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