Viva Boney M, Viva!

Boney M had a hit in the early eighties with “Don’t Kill the World.” The underlying message in this song is as valid today as it was then, if not more so! I heard the song a while ago and it got stuck in my mind, as songs often have the habit of doing. I brought it into line with a number of observations I had the opportunity of making in the wine industry. These observations are by no means complete and I actually started thinking about them after listening to Clive Trent as I walked from the Pumphouse on Backsberg down to the wine tasting room where Danwin James was waiting for us (myself and an interesting group of young MBA students from Belmont University in Nashville, USA). Come to think of it, that Pumphouse Shiraz 2007 that Backsberg won a gold medal for this year, would be quite beneficial for a lot of innovation!

Wouldn’t it be great if we all (not only the wine farms) lived a life where we demonstrated in a very real way that we cared about nature and the planet? People such as Al Gore have shown us the importance of noticing what was happening in the environment. An inconvenient truth has indeed become inconvenient!

Wouldn’t it be great if we all, and not just the wineries, got into the inconvenient habit of putting off lights behind us when we left a room? Of putting off electric appliances when they were not being used? Of using electricity saving light bulbs? Of installing solar heating systems?

Wouldn’t it be great if all the wineries started looking at ways and means of generating a substantial portion of their own electricity by using bamboo stems and leaves? This technology is already available and is not new. I read the other day that the Germans were going to convert CO2 into methane which would have a commercial use. These are initiatives that will make a difference!

Wouldn’t it be great if all the wineries planted their vines in a way where less space was taken up and still produce the same kind of yield? This would have the advantage of needing less travelling within the blocks of vines and would save some carbon footprint. It would also save some money for petrol and diesel.

Wouldn’t it be great if the wine farms all started using small tractors in their vineyards, which would bring down their carbon footprints? It would also be great if the tractor manufacturers could actually make smaller tractors to address this need.  Let’s stop using these big 4×4’s and start using the smaller pickups such as Bantam and Corsa. They do the same job, inspite of not fuelling the testostorone levels!

Wouldn’t it be great if all the wineries actively sought to increase the quality of the soil using the refuse on the farm in an innovative manner? Helping the soil to regenerate itself will increase the potential for sustainability in a real and tangible manner.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the wine farms used mulching to get rid of trees and in the process create compost for the vineyards? Burning trees has obvious negative implications for the environment. Getting rid of alien trees and shrubs can also help with conserving water, and also serve as a source of mulching for compost purposes.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the wineries used cool water from the irrigation dams on the farm to cool down the winemaking process? It has been found that the water at about 1 ½ metres below the surface of the water is a constant 16 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for the cooling of the winemaking process. This approach will not only have these wineries to save considerable money in cutting the use of electricity, but will also have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of the country. Less coal needs to be burnt to generate electricity, with obvious benefits.

Wouldn’t it be great if those wineries that had wine clubs actually undertook to plant trees on behalf of their members, helping their members becoming carbon neutral families? In spite of being a teetotaler, I am a member of the Backsberg Wine Club. In addition to providing me with a whole range of economic benefits, they also plant trees on my behalf!

Wouldn’t it be great if we all adopted an approach where we refused to sell our carbon credits to others, and actually forced them to do the right thing and live a sustainable life? If we who have carbon credits said no, we would make a contribution towards forcing others to take nature into consideration. I know the allure of money is always a factor, but here we truly need to take the bigger picture into consideration!

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of looking for entities that had carbon credits, we would develop an approach where we lived a life and ran our business as if we cared for nature and in the process developed our own carbon credits? It’s time to put up or shut up!

Wouldn’t it be great if all the wineries and farms had a water treatment plant to “recondition” the water used for non-agricultural purposes and make it fit for use again? Water is after all an extremely scarce resource, not only in SA, but elsewhere in the world as well! The experts are telling us that the wars of the future will be fought over natural resources, of which water is extremely important. The experts in charge of water in SA are also telling us that we are going to run out of sufficient quantities of potable water in the not too far distant future. It is time we work much more wisely with that which we have!

Wouldn’t it be great if more wineries would host such organisations as Trees for Africa? Think about the cumulative effect of such actions! Think about the impact the Cheetah Foundation at Spier has on the preservation of the cheetah. Think about the beneficial impact of the sanctuary for wild birds, also at Spier. It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.

Wouldn’t it be great if we followed the example of wineries such as Backsberg and Spier and actually put our money where our mouths are? These two wineries have been the recipients of international awards for developing sustainable businesses in the wine industry. They are worthy of considerable more attention and praise than they are currently getting. Isn’t it time we actually start asking the wineries about their sustainability practices before we buy their wine?

For other views on conserving nature, have a look at amongst others, sites such as and

Bottom line? Let’s take Boney M seriously and start making a contribution to stop killing our world. Let’s stop with those practices that do cause unnecessary damage (do we actually have necessary damage?). Let’s start with those initiatives that do make a meaningful contribution towards a sustainable society. Let’s start supporting those companies and suppliers that have made it part of their purpose to create a sustainable society. This world is all we’ve got!

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3 Responses

  1. Andre Engelbrecht says:

    One of the biggest advantages of narrow row widths is the better utilization of very expensive land, by far the most expensive component. On a diversified farm, which includes wheat farming, the producer is forced to have wider row widths to accommodate the dual usage of his larger tractors. Will let you know what the outcome is of a comparison between the costs of wider row widths and smaller, additional tractors.

  2. johanhburger says:

    I had some interesting feedback from a number of wineries. I also checked out the websites of a number of wineries as well. I noted that we had some, like Durbanville Hills, who set aside more than 200 hectares for the preservation of rhinofield (renosterbos, to others who made important contributions to the protection of tortoises, to others who helped conserve fynbos, to others who installed solar heating panels on a big scale. The bottom line is that it appears that our wine industry is doing quite a lot for the preservation of Mother Earth, albeit in various diverse forms.

    I think I will ask one of my MBA students to do a study on the contributions of the various entities in the wine industry towards enhancing the sustainability of the industry. It will be a sin not to see what we are currently doing and to not give credit where it is due!