Leshiba is located in a rural part of Limpopo Province on top of a mountain. With no Eskom power, relatively low rainfall and logistical problems transporting goods up and down the mountain, a decision was taken in 1993 to find a way to ensure Leshiba’s long-term sustainable development. In other words, develop a modern form of “farming”, unlike that which characterizes the surrounding area. (We now have over 50 solar panels for lighting and power as well as three solar boreholes; we produce bricks on site and have an established organic garden for fresh produce).
Having identified Leshiba’s main asset as its amazing bio diversity of flora and fauna, a unique farming opportunity presented itself to research and develop the potential of the medicinal and aromatic plant types that occur here.
As this would be a long-term project, it was decided in the interim to develop Leshiba’s eco-tourism potential. The research and development of Leshiba’s medicinal and aromatic plant potential has run alongside the eco-tourism, as eco -tourism alone is not enough to establish Leshiba on a sustainable economic basis.
Permaculture, viviculture and training
There was a need at Leshiba to supply fresh vegetables for the staff, their extended families and the Lodge. This is ongoing and so in view of the above, a plan was set in motion to establish a Permaculture garden, an indigenous tree nursery and organic food growing and skills – training centre. Innovative new ideas such as vermiculture, harvesting of rainwater, recycling of grey water systems etc, have all been included in the design. The Indigenous Knowledge skills training centre provides an essential base for skills development of personnel, research and development.
Overview of Leshiba’s farming activities
- Leshiba has a wide range of wildlife, certain species of which, are, from time to time sold and new wildlife purchased to introduce new genetic strains
- Of particular importance is the breeding of endangered white rhino
- With input from specialists from the bio-prospecting unit of CSIR as well as other specialists, we are in the process of creating an indigenous plant nursery to investigate and propagate medicinal plants in a sustainable way for the pharmaceutical and traditional muti industry. This has been a time consuming process.
- Leshiba has over 380 indigenous tree species (well in excess of the Kruger National Park’s 336 species) and includes a high number of medicinal plant species.
- Warburgia salutaris, (the Pepperbark), which occurs at Leshiba, is one of the main trees being investigated for the treatment of HIV and Aids. The name 'salutaris' refers to 'saluting your health'. It has been developed as a treatment for oral thrush, which results from the use of ARV's. It is also an immune booster known to work on gastric, chest and blood problems. The bark is of value and is harvested for sale in traditional muti markets. A student of the well-known ecologist Dr Coert J Geldenhuys did a study at Leshiba on the sustainability of harvesting bark. On her recommendation, we undertook a study on the sustainability of harvesting bark or germinating seedlings and we are now at a point where the population of trees is large enough for us to consider our options and to begin harvesting.
- Lippia javanica (Fever tea) also grows prolifically at Leshiba. This plant is a natural insecticide and is being used in malaria prevention. Candles are produced using the oil extracted from this plant and these candles are being sold commercially.
- Leshiba has begun harvesting seeds including the propagating of trees for commercial use and also for the supply of seed. We have recently supplied seed to the AFRISTAR Foundation, for their greening project in Mamelodi township: Oncoba spinosa (Snuff-box tree), 6 different species of Combretums (Bush willows), Pterocarpus angolensis (Wild Teak), Warburgia salutaris (Pepperbark), Nuxia floribunda (Forest elder), Nuxia congesta (Common wild elder), Clerodendrum glabrum (Cat's Whiskers).
- We have run Permaculture workshops to train our staff and members of the local community in order to expand on this practice.
- Leshiba has planted rose geraniums for essential oil extraction for commercial use.
- We utilize rhino, giraffe, zebra and impala dung for the making of recycled paper produced by Handcrafted Paper.
- Leshiba has been breeding Nooitgedacht horses for the past 6 years
- We are aiming to introduce black impala to start a breeding project of these rare animals.
- We run a veld management program, stopping bush encroachment, clearing large tracts of land and encouraging grass growth to sustain the rhino and horse breeding projects.
- As part of our farming practices, we also run a controlled burning project to stimulate new grass species and keep the land open for grazing.
- We have received a grant from Agri SETA of R179 000 to train our staff in plant and animal production.
- Professor John Donaldson, from the National Biodiversity Institute, who deals in red data species, visited Leshiba to investigate the possibility of re-introducing, harvesting seed and propagating a rare cycad. Leshiba has a unique habitat suitable to cultivating this species. We are in the process of acquiring through SANBI, a biodiversity management plan in order to achieve this.