Renosterveld loses a true conservation champion

Renosterveld loses a true conservation champion

Renosterveld lost a true champion recently when farmer Hansie Swart of Swellendam passed away. Long before anyone had seriously considered protecting Renosterveld, Hansie was already conserving the extensive tracts that occurred on his farm along the Breede River.

For those in the conservation sector who knew him, Hansie’s passing was a blow to conservation in general, and especially to the ORCT. According to Odette Curtis-Scott, Director of the ORCT, “Hansie was not only passionate about protecting his Renosterveld, he also thought deeply about the natural world. He was extremely smart and open-minded, and would always bring his creativity to any situation. He was able to show us things in a new light, using his intellect and wonderful way with words.”

Hansie was a sixth-generation farmer on his farm Sandkraal with his wife Esté and their two daughters. He also served on the BKB board from 2014, and became Vice-Chair in 2020.

Odette and Conservation Manager Grant Forbes had a special friendship with Hansie and Esté.

“He demonstrated his love of nature many years ago, when we first met. Already as a child, he connected with nature and spent a lot of time in the veld, which is where he developed his strong desire to protect the Renosterveld on his farm.”

Odette adds, “Aside from that love of nature, he brought wisdom, insight and alternative ideas to each conversation we had. Hansie had a deep and intuitive understanding of the veld and how to look after it. He always thought ‘out of the box’ and our debates about veld management were always accompanied by his quirky, dry sense of humour. I will miss those conversations – and I will miss this wonderful person who enriched my life so much.

Top: Brunsvigia josephinae. Bottom left: Oxytate argenteooculata. Bottom right: Oxalis convexula 

Above: Dorotheanthus bellidiformis

“We are so grateful that Esté shares Hansie’s (and our) love of the veld and for the friendship we have with her, as we know she will keep his legacy alive.

“Grant and I will always remember with great fondness the times we spent on Sandkraal with the Swarts, ‘glamping’ with our families on the river, chatting over braais or lunch at the kitchen table, and exploring the endless kloofs of Renosterveld.

“We will also always laugh about how Hansie used to, tongue-in-cheek, shake his head in dismay at Grant, Esté and myself for spending hours in one place photographing all the flowers, insects and spiders that we could find – I think he thought we were a little crazy – he was probably right. The world will, without a doubt, be a lot poorer without Hansie in it.”

Hansie passed away at home on 16 February 2023, after a long and brave battle with melanoma.

To honour Hansie, the ORCT will be planting a White Stinkwood, Hansie’s favourite tree, at the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve.

Above: Bean Beetle, Mylabris oculata