The Karoo (from a Khoikhoi word, possibly garo “desert”) is a semi-desert natural region of South Africa, partly defined by its topography, geology and climate and above all its low rainfall, arid air, cloudless skies, and extremes. A place of great heat and frosts, the annual rainfall is only 50 – 250 mm, while some of the mountains records rainfall of 250 mm to 500 mm higher than the plains.
Underground water found throughout the Karoo is tapped by borehole, making sheep and other forms of farming possible. Sheep thrive on the xerophytic vegetation, which consists of aloes, mesembryanthemums, crassulas, euphorbias, stapelias and desert ephemerals. The interior Karoo has a semi-arid climate with cold, frosty winters and hot summers with occasional thunderstorms. Much of the Nama Karoo biome is used for sheep and goat farming, providing mutton, wool and pelts for local and international markets, especially since livestock can enjoy a regular supply of water from boreholes.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Volstruise / Ostriches
This region is named after Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. Overstrand covers an area of 1 708 km², stretching along the coast of the Overberg from the east of False Bay to Cape Agulhas. The western part consists mostly of narrow coastal plain, dominated by gently to moderately undulating hills and enclosed by mountains and the ocean. The eastern part beyond the Klein River expands away from the coast to include a wider agricultural region where the agricultural villages of Stanford and Gansbaai are located.
Hermanus, classified as having a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, receives 520 mm of rain per annum, with the majority falling during the winter months of June to August in the form of frontal precipitation. Average midday temperatures range from 25°C in February to 16°C in July and extreme temperatures of above 30°C and below 10°C are not uncommon. Strong south-easterly and north-westerly winds are common during the summer and winter respectively.
Wheat fields and canola are predominant, while the area produces quality wine grapes. Trout farming in this region is popular too.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Varke / Pigs Volstruise / Ostriches Pluimvee / Chickens
Theewaterskloof covers an area of 3 232 km² in the western interior of the Overberg between the Riviersonderend Mountains to the north, the Kogelberg and Kleinrivier Mountains to the south and the Hottentots-Holland mountains to the west. Farming is focused on wheat and canola.
The fertile Elgin Valley, a large, lush area of land circled by mountains and drained by the Palmiet River, makes up the western part of the region. Grabouw, in the heart of the vast Elgin Valley, is the commercial center for what is the largest single export fruit producing area in Southern Africa. The northern part is the valley of the Sonderend River, including the Theewaterskloof Dam. The enormous Theewaterskloof Dam provides water for Cape Town and the surrounding farming areas.
The southeastern part is in the Overberg plain and is drained by the Bot and Klein Rivers. The Elgin Valley is one of the more intensively farmed districts of South Africa and produces 60% of the national apple crop. It’s internationally known as the place in South Africa “where the apples come from”.
Since the building of the Theewaterskloof Dam, the Villiersdorp Valley specialises in deciduous fruit farming and viticulture.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Volstruise / Ostriches Pluimvee / Chickens
The Eden district covers an area of 23 331 km² including the Garden Route and the Little Karoo. On the west, the area stretches to the Breede River mouth and the Langeberg mountains while the northern boundary runs along the Swartberg mountains. The famous Towerkop towers over the Klein Karoo town of Ladismith at a height of 2 189 m and forms part of the Klein Swartberge (The Smaller Swartberg). The Groot Swartberge (Greater Swartberg) is located to the east, with the dividing line between the two ranges being the Gouritz River, which cuts a gorge directly through the range. These mountains are home to the Cango Caves, the most famous subterranean system in South Africa, located just north of Oudtshoorn. The area is known for its dairy and ostrich farming.
The Langkloof Valley between Joubertina and Avontuur has been farmed since 1760 and is an important fruit-growing region, specifically of apples. The fertile 160 km long valley includes Herold, a small village north of George and The Heights – just beyond Twee Riviere. Kannaland is situated in the western part of the Little Karoo and includes the towns of Ladismith, Calitzdorp and Zoar. The area is drained by the Groot and Gourits Rivers.
Prince Albert enjoys a more temperate climate with high temperatures in summer (an average of 33 – 35°C) and 17°C in the winter months. Winter is sunny with colder temperatures at night and midwinter minimums of 2°C with frost in places. Prince Albert has several olive farms and large fruit farms in the area, as well as sheep farms and a growing export Mohair trade. Each year the villages in the area celebrate their harvest at the well-known Olive Festival. The pure water and air in Prince Albert are optimal for producing the highest quality Spanish Jamon (ham).
Hessequa covers an area of 5 733 km² between the Langeberg mountains and the Indian Ocean and is flanked by the lower Breede River to the west and the Gourits River to the east. The Langeberg Range is composed mostly of Table Mountain Sandstone and the range is part of the Cape Fold Belt.
On the southern slopes of the Langeberg range mountain, fynbos can be found with Afromontane forest patches found in deep secluded gorges. Hessequa has a moderate climate. Rainfall occurs predominantly in winter and reaches totals of 300 mm inland to 1 000 mm on the coast. The climate is ideal for sheep, cattle, dairy, ostrich, wheat and Barley November farming.
Riversdale (Afrikaans: Riversdal) is a major agricultural service orientated town located on the N2 highway between Cape Town and George on the Agulhas Coastal Plain of the Southern Western Cape Province.
The Garden Route (Tuinroete) stretches along the south-eastern coastline from Mossel Bay to the Storms River. The name refers to the area’s verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation.
The oceanic climate, with mild to warm summers and mild to cool winters, is the mildest in South Africa and the second mildest climate in the world after Hawaii (Guinness Book of Records). Temperatures rarely fall below 10°C in winter and rarely climb beyond 28°C in summer. Rain occurs year-round, peaking slightly in the spring, brought on by the humid sea-winds from the Indian Ocean rising and releasing their precipitation along the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains just inland of the coast. Forests along the slopes of these mountain ranges are a unique mixture of Cape Fynbos and temperate forest. The area is an important eco-tourism and farming region. George is the area’s largest city and main administrative center.
Mossel Bay, 400 km east of Cape Town, receives 80% of its rainfall at night. The average days of sunshine are 320 days per year. The maritime climate with cool, moist winters and mild, moist summers makes the area ideal for dairy, wine, citrus, wheat, sheep and cattle and ostriches.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Volstruise / Ostriches Pluimvee / Chickens Suiwel / Dairy
The Swellendam region covers an area of 3 835 km² in the lower Breede River Valley. It stretches from the confluence of the Breede River and Sonderend River downstream to the Breede River mouth on the Indian Ocean, and extends westwards up the Sonderend River and northwards across the Langeberg mountains.
The region has a predominantly Mediterranean climate, with long summer days in January and February. June and July bring the Cape Winter with mild weather, rain and possible snow. Barrydale is known for a temperate climate and warm, dry summers with averages of 25°C and occasionally up to 35°C, and mild and wet winters when the temperature occasionally dips, accompanied by light frosts. The warm, temperate climate is perfect for the cultivation of various fruit trees with numerous orchards on the fertile soils of the Tradouw Valley. Apples and oranges are harvested in the winter and crops of apricots, figs, cling peaches, grapes and pears in the summer.
Swellendam, the third oldest town in the Republic of South Africa, is situated approximately 220 km from both Cape Town and George. Wheat, canola, oats, sheep and dairy farming make up the backbone of the local economy in the area.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Varke / Pigs Volstruise / Ostriches
This region covers an area of 8 784 km² on the south-western edge of the Great Karoo.
The Great Karoo is a semi-desert region of South-Africa with the Buffels River as its main life giving water supply.
Laingsburg, a major town with an economy mainly based on farming, is situated along the N1 route. Summers are extremely hot and dry, with temperatures exceeding 30°C. Winters are crisp to very cold with occasional snow and a total rainfall of only about 150 mm per year. The Great Karoo is renowned for goats, sheep, lucerne (Alfalfa), fruit and vegetable farming.
The Langeberg region covers a land area of 4 518 km² in the Breede River Valley and the west end of the Little Karoo. The Riviersonderend Mountains and the Koega Mountains form the southern and northern boundaries respectively.
The Breede River flows in the same direction as the Langeberg, and runs through the center of the region. The Langeberg Range is composed mostly of Table Mountain Sandstone and forms part of the Cape Fold Belt.
Robertson is the largest town, situated on the northeastern side of the Langeberg at the entrance to the Cogmanskloof Gorge. The wine industry in Robertson has grown from less than 25 cellars in 1995 to more than 50 registered today. A number of wine cellars receive the highest awards both locally and internationally every year. The Langeberg area is famous for citrus and fruit farming. Tourism has grown in recent years and the area has several Western Cape provincial heritage sites.
Matzikama is the northernmost region of the Western Cape, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the mountains of the Bokkeveld escarpment in the east. In the north lies the hilly Knersvlakte area.
Matzikama is an arid environment supported by the Olifants River and its life giving canal systems. Good water supply and fertile soils boost the healthy, diversified and strong local agricultural industry. The area has a flourishing agricultural sector focused on viniculture (wine grapes), table grapes and raisins (up to 70%), as well as vegetables, citrus fruit and livestock.
Agriculture and tourism, mainly in the Namaqualand, are the main sectors in terms of GDP and employment. Namaqualand is extremely popular with both local and international tourists during early springtime when, for a short period, this normally arid area is covered with a kaleidoscope of colour during flowering season. This is known as the Namaqualand daisy season, when orange and white daisies, as well as hundreds of other flowering species, spring up from a previously barren landscape.
Formed by its name sake, the Breede River Valley is relatively broad and flat with a floor height of 80 m to 250 m above sea-level. It is encircled by the mountains of the Cape Fold Belt, ranging from 1 500 m to upwards of 2 000 m’s in height. The Breede Valley stretches from Tulbagh in the north to McGregor in the south, Rawsonville in the west, to Ashton in the east, and all the way up the Hex River Valley. The area is climatically diverse, yet falls within a Mediterranean climate, with most precipitation falling in winter (May to September). Rainfall approaches upwards of 1 000 mm per annum in the north and west, whereas areas near Worcester only receive 175 mm per annum. The climate in Rawsonville and Goudini on the eastern flanks of the Du Toitskloof Mountains is ‘Hinterland’ and thus further from oceanic influences, with cool, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. This area is known for the Breedekloof Wine Route with its concentration of 22 cellars and wine estates.
The Breede Vallei is the largest fruit and wine producing area in the Western Cape, contributing almost 25% of the country’s viticultural output. The valley is also South Africa’s leading race-horse breeding area and the farming of Proteas and Fynbos is popular. Agriculture as well as tourism, in more recent years, drives the local economy.
Worcester is located 120 km north-east of Cape Town. German settlers employed as “tagloners” on the surrounding farms from 1860 onwards, would soon use the abundance of fertile soil, water and their skilled labour to see the area evolve from livestock farming to cultivated land, orchards and vineyards. By 1865 the production from the flourishing vineyards compared favourably with the Stellenbosch and Paarl valleys. The Olof Bergh Solera Brandy Cellar and the KWV Brandy Cellar form part of the South African Brandy Route and an impressive 33 wineries produce and bottle in the Worcester area.
The first export grapes planted in the Hex River Valley dates from 1875. The Hex River Valley produces more than 17 million cartons of table grapes per annum. In recent years, olive production has also been added in the dryer southern regions of the valley.
Central to agricultural production in the area is the Greater Brandvlei dam, with a capacity of 342 million cubic litres. Completed in 1936 and fully extended by 1987, the Brandvlei Dam provides water to various irrigation schemes in the valley.
The Stellenbosch and Franschoek valleys make up part of the Cape Winelands, the larger of the two main wine growing regions in South Africa. Stellenbosch is in a hilly region at an average elevation of 136 m, sheltered in a fertile valley flanked by Papegaaiberg, Stellenbosch Mountain and the Jonkershoek, Drakenstein, and Simonsberg Mountains.
The region possesses a wide range of soils, from light, sandy soils to decomposed granite and dark alluvium to clay. A Mediterranean climate compliments the well-drained hilly terroir and proves excellent for viticulture.
Wine grapes were first planted here in 1690 and the area soon became the center of the South African wine industry. Stellenbosch (and Stellenbosch University) is a primary location for viticulture and viticulture research. The renowned Elsenburg is a leader in agricultural research and innovation.
The diverse range of crops and livestock farmed in the area today include citrus, and sheep. Franschoek is renowned for its world famous wineries and world famous eateries and is often described as the food and wine capital of South Africa.
Drakenstein, located in the Berg River Valley west of the Boland mountain ranges, covers an area of 1 538 km², stretching about 75 km from Saron in the north to beyond Paarl in the south. The town Wellington is situated at the foot of the Groenberg on the banks of the Kromme Rivier and forms the center of the Cape Winelands.
The Berg River originates in the Drakenstein Mountains. This river is approximately 294 km long, with a catchment area of 7 715 km² and outlets into the Atlantic Ocean. The local economy is centered on viticulture, table grapes, deciduous fruits and the local brandy industry. Paarl and Wellington, situated in the Berg River’s upper catchment area, are major agricultural towns.
The Drakenstein region and its historical towns offer many cultural, viticultural and culinary attractions as well as natural beauty. It is a mere hour’s drive from Cape Town and is popular amongst tourists.
The Cape Metropole consists of the areas surrounding Cape Town namely Durbanville, the Cape Flats and Philadelphia. The majority of Cape Town’s vegetable supply (80%) is grown in the farmlands just outside of Philippi on the Cape Flats. The fertile soils of Philippi produce 100 000 tons of vegetables per year and provide jobs to nearly 3 700 people. The Western Cape also accounts for 80% – 90% of national vegetable seed production in South Africa.
The first community of local residents in Philippi was recorded in 1833 during which time it was known as Die Duine (The Dunes). Philadelphia was developed from a parish of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1863. The name is of Biblical origin and means brotherly love.
Durbanville was founded in the early 19th century around a fresh water spring and was primarily a watering station for travelers between Cape Town and the interior. The area was originally known as Pampoenkraal (from the Afrikaans words “pampoen”, meaning pumpkin, and “kraal”, meaning an enclosure for livestock). Today, this picturesque, hilly area is world renowned for its quality wineries and guest farms overlooking Table Mountain.
Vark / Pork Suiwel / Dairy
The Swartland, covering an area of 3 707 km² and stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Berg River in the east, consists of the regions between Malmesbury in the south, Darling in the west, Piketberg in the north and Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel in the east. The area took its name from the Renosterbos (rhino bush), an indigenous plant that turns black in the warm, dry summers. Wheat fields reaching up to the foot of the mountains are interrupted by wine, fruit and vegetable farms.
This wide, fertile plain is also known as the bread basket of Cape Town, the capital of the Western Cape which is only 50 km away. The area is known for its grain and sheep, poultry and dairy farming. The Darling Museum is just the place to learn about the original Darling Creamery, first established in 1899. This museum also holds a collection of large agricultural machines. The area is famous for its wildflowers and since 1917 the Darling Wildflower Festival is celebrated yearly. Viticulture in the Swartland is still comparatively young and is practiced under dry land conditions with minimal irrigation.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Varke / Pigs Volstruise / Ostriches Pluimvee / Chickens Suiwel / Dairy
The Bergriver region covers an area of 4 407 km², stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Groot Winterhoek mountains in the east. The Piketberg Mountains, a range of low mountains formed from Table Mountain Sandstone, are at the center of the region and the Great Berg River and its tributaries make up the most significant section of its drainage system.
The area around the foothills of the Piketberg Mountains is conducive to wheat farming while the area on top of the mountains, being cooler and generally frost-free, is suited for farming with fruit and Rooibos Tea. About 65% of the Bergriver area is under agriculture, with a wide and diverse range of crops grown across the region. The area is also renowned for livestock, including ostriches.
Four definite farming areas exist here: The Sandveld, located along the Berg River and the coast, the Red Karoo Dry Land, the hilly wheat fields of Piketberg and Porterville and the Wintershoek Mountains. The Wintershoek is characterised by wheat fields, fruit orchards and mixed agriculture at the foot of the mountain.
The Cederberg is bordered by the Sandveld in the west, the Pakhuis Mountains in the north, the Springbok flats in the east, and the Koue Bokkeveld Mountains and the Skurweberge to the south. The Cederberg mountains extend 50 km north-south by 20 km east-west.
Arable land is limited by the altitude, dry climate and rocky terrain. Summers are very hot and dry and typically clear and cloudless. Winters are wetter and cold, with annual rainfall of less than 700 mm in low lying areas.
The economy of the Cederberg is primarily based on agriculture, while guest farms cater for the local and international tourist market. Rooibos Tea is the area’s most famous export, while fruit, proteas and other fynbos are also popular crops. The Cederberg Mountains is home to South Africa’s highest winery above sea level.
Skape / Sheep Beeste / Cattle Bokke / Goats