>>> THE HONEYBUSH STORY....
The advancing role of research in growing the honeybush industry
While the rooibos tea industry in South Africa dates back well over 100 years, the formal industry of its fynbos counterpart, honeybush, is relatively young.
Tius van Rooyen with the first commercial plantations to yield ahoneybush harvest in 1998 on the farm Waboomskraal, near George. Photo supplied by Hannes de Lange.
Honeybush remained a small cottage industry until it was 're-discovered' in the mid-1990s. In 1992, the foundation for a formal agricultural and agro-processing industry was laid with the launch of a propagation research project by Dr Hannes de Lange of SANBI. The project, titled 'Cyclopia species: Initiation of commercial plantings and studying of its conservation', was funded by the ARC. The growth of the market for healthy foods contributed to the new interest in honeybush and its health-promoting properties. At the same time, more ARC-funded research projects followed, and the interest and participation of farmers, processors and marketers fuelled the further development of the industry.
In 1999, the industry was formalised with the establishment of the South African Honeybush Producers Association (SAHPA), later re-named as the South African Honeybush Tea Association (SAHTA) to include all stakeholders.
Marlise Joubert | Former ARC Chief Research Technician: Soil Science and Plant Breeding; SAHTA chairperson (2007-2012)
The honeybush journey of Marlise Joubert started in 1997 as researcher in the ARC Smallholder Farmer Section with training as one of her key responsibilities. At that stage she was already involved in Haarlem, a region where honeybush occurred naturally in the wild. Joyene Isaacs, the ARC Centre Coordinator for Resource-limited Farmers' Programme at that stage (1996–2001), instructed Joubert and Philip Bothma to accompany Dr de Lange on his visits to various honeybush farmers in the regions of Albertinia (Solly Jacobs and Nico Malan) and Riversdale (Laurie Strydom). Bothma was also a researcher in the ARC Smallholder Farmer Section at that stage and was involved in the cultivation of alternative crops.
For many years, Marlise Joubert played a key role in promoting the honeybush industry
and coordinating activities between the ARC and SAHTA. Photo supplied by ARC.
A lasting honeybush legacy
What is in a name?
From crop to cup
First records of a local cottage industry
Dr Hannes de Lange: A reflection on the pioneering days
Commercialisation of Cyclopia genistoides – a story that originated at the foot of Table Mountain
Research on honeybush cultivation
Research on honeybush tea processing
Local growth and the start of an international footprint
Looking into the future … Dr Hannes de Lange, Pioneer of the formal honeybush industry, December 2020
A vision for the honeybush industry: Joyene Isaacs, chairperson Agricultural Research Council Board | Former HOD Western Cape Department of Agriculture, March 2021
A honeybush timeline: milestones, highlights and interesting snippets
Sources of information
In 1998, after various visits, Isaacs instructed
them to investigate the need for establishing an association for the
honeybush industry. Under the guidance of ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, several information and technical days were presented in different
regions, with a total attendance figure of about 200. Subsequently, a
pilot committee with Fritz Joubert as chairman, was chosen to
investigate the possibility of establishing a honeybush tea association,
and in 1999, SAHPA was founded. Marlise Joubert played a significant
role in drafting the association's constitution and later in its
registration as an Article 21 Company. From March 2000, numerous SAHTA
newsletters on the association's activities and information to the
industry were compiled by Joubert on behalf of the ARC
The ARC has implemented community support
projects at Haarlem, Friemersheim, Suurbraak, Karwyderskraal and
Genadendal. Plantings were established with the aim of involving
upcoming farmers. The ARC team, led by Joyene Isaacs, included Marlise
Joubert (soil science), Philip Botma (cultivation), Hans Hugo
(nematodes) and Roberta Burgess (insect pests). Community support
included negotiating agreements with communities, identifying potential
land for honeybush cultivation, preparation of soil, supplying plant
material and assisting in the planting of seedlings, as well as on-farm
In 2008, Marlise Joubert and Goodwell Dingaan (Western
Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism) convened a
strategic planning workshop for industry stakeholders in George. Later
in 2010, the Western Cape Provincial Government committed to increasing
its support for the honeybush tea industry, recognising honeybush as one
of the unique, indigenous products from South Africa that has the
potential to reach niche markets around the world. A new strategic plan
was developed by SAHTA, led by Marlise Joubert as chairperson, to
improve tea quality, cultivation and breeding material.
honeybush farming guide for small and emerging farmers was launched by ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij in 2012. It was
based on the technical research performed by Marlise Joubert.
Over the past years, Marlise Joubert has not only made an important contribution as soil scientist in answering questions on soil preparation and fertilisation for honeybush cultivation, but together with Dr Hannes de Lange, Prof Lizette Joubert and other role players, she played a significant role in the early promotion of honeybush and cultivation thereof through technical days, field visits, etc. For many years, she also served as link between ARC and SAHTA, i.e., researchers and the industry. Of her key contributions included her role in establishing nurseries and plantations in community support projects, formal and on-farm training of community members and other industry role players, GI application of honeybush, sourcing of research funding and various honeybush cultivation research projects. At the end of 2017, she retired from ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij.
Marlise Joubert at one of her many honeybush marketing initiatives: promoting honeybush tea at the national arts festival, Klein Karoo Kunstefees (KKNK), Oudtshoorn, in 2011. Photo supplied by ARC.