A journey through the Nuwejaars wetlands 


On National Water Week – follow our journey through the Nuwejaars Wetlands Ecosystem – and get to know the important role these Palmiet wetlands play in water conservation (and what we’re doing to help). 


PALMIET: It’s not particularly pretty nor eye-catching. But THIS National Water Week it’s in the spotlight.


The Palmiet wetlands of the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area are important ‘ecoystem engineers’. Research by Dr Alanna Rebelo found Palmiet wetlands are adapted to both fire and floods. They purify water and can sequester carbon. And they turn stressful environments into habitats that support wildlife – and downstream communities that depend on this water supply.

For the past few years, the Overberg has been in the midst of drought. That’s one reason to protect these wetlands. Over the next #WaterWeek, join this wetlands journey on our social media.


Here’s a worrying fact: In the NWSMA, thirsty invasive plants reduce water flows by between 5 to 10%. That’s less water for our wetlands, for our wildlife – and for our downstream communities.

But just look what CAN be done with great partners on board. This is what Gerty and her alien clearing team, supported by WWF South Africa and the Overberg District Municipality, have cleared all along the banks of the Nuwejaars River, and around our Palmiet wetlands.

(Video credit: Dirk Human)

Here’s how we use our invasive plants.

We clear the plants from our waterscapes, to free up water supply. Then where we can, we chip the dried cut alien trees, and use the chips wherever they’re needed, like for this walkway. We also stack and burn remaining biomass.

Agriculture and nature conservation – working together…


After clearing sections of our wetlands, we’ve fenced them off to prevent livestock from grazing there. It allows the natural vegetation to recover, and agricultural activities to continue.

Water for Livelihoods: 

With funding support from the Overberg District Municipality, we could create employment for 4 additional people who are clearing our Palmiet wetlands of invasive alien plants. This creates the right habitat for resident and migratory bird species. Our contractor, Gerty Holtzhausen, explains.


The first steps…


To what will be our brand new bird hide.


This walkway was built to cross a wetland site. And it will lead up to a bird hide, overlooking a section of the Nuwejaars River (where you could see species such as the Black Duck, Purple Heron, the African Marsh Harrier and maybe even the Marsh Owl). 

Crucial Role



Palmiet wetlands across South Africa have decreased by 31% since the 1940s, according to research by Dr Alanna Rebelo.


Yet these wetlands perform functions that human-made infrastructure can’t replicate. On World Water Day, let’s give a thumbs up to the crucial role they play in clean water. And our efforts to protect them in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area.

Every day we ...

Protect our nature

The Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (SMA) is found within a biodiversity hotspot – the Agulhas Plain, at the southernmost tip of Africa.

Support social wellbeing

The Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA employs six people permanently, two Conservation Managers and four in our maintenance team.



Promote Tourism

The region's rare fynbos and renosterveld, and distinctive wildlife are ideal for nature lovers. The cultural heritage of the Plain is rich, with the missionary town of Elim a must-see for tourists.




Access our biodiversity

If we want to reach social and environmental sustainability, the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area must achieve economic sustainability.


Teaching about nature

School outings are now being hosted to the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA, where children can connect with this wondrous, intricate natural world.  


Sustainable Agriculture

Traditionally private landowners in the Overberg have made their income from agricultural activities, like grain and livestock farming.

Donors and partners


To our donors over the past financial year, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you for your support, enabling us to protect this irreplaceable area, and improve lives here:



Donors and partners

To our donors over the past financial year, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you for your support, enabling us to protect this irreplaceable area, and improve lives here:


We work with

We work with


We work with

We work with