SA Country Life

Hope in the High Country

The road to Machubeni starts as smooth tar from Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape, swiftly unravelling to potholed dirt as it winds slowly north for about 30 kilometres into the foothills of the Stormberg range.

The krantz-crowned mountains are a dramatic and constant backdrop to the grassy hills and valleys. Every few kilometres, there is another small village with widely spaced homesteads painted sea green, marigold yellow, rose pink or brilliant white.

Erosion dongas scar the slopes of this tawny landscape, and between them roam goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys seeking any hint of grass. Overgrazing across the fenceless veld has resulted in the merciless invasion of an indigenous, unpalatably bitter pioneer shrub called Euryops floribundus. Also called harpuisbos in Afrikaans and lapesi in isiXhosa, it is resinous, flammable and deters grass growth.

It is also clear that drought is gnawing at this usually well-watered land. Here, the planet’s three greatest, interlocking,

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