The FOSTER AGM held at the Cape St Francis resort on Thursday 3 March was extremely well attended with some 71 people making the effort to be there, in fact extra chairs had to be brought in and several people had to stand. Hopefully this was due to a renewed interest in FOSTER and not just because of the fascinating talk that Richard Cowling gave about “Why our flora in this region is so rich”.

Below is an extract from the outgoing Chair’s report, delivered by Richard Cowling.

2021 has been another busy year for FOSTER fueled by a renewed and reinvigorated Committee. FOSTER recruited three new members, namely Trevor Gascoyne, Nita Claassen and Antoinette Grundling. Jal Rigaard resigned in the face of mounting work pressures; we thank him for his excellent contribution to the proclamation of the reserves and for providing liaison with the Kouga Municipality. John Elliott has also needed to step back from direct involvement in reserve management but will be available to provide advice as an Associate Member. Shirley Cowling is not available for re-election. The Committee expresses huge gratitude to Shirley for her enormous contribution to the establishment and growth of FOSTER over the past 30 years. We will continue to tap into her knowledge and wisdom regarding the management of our reserves. Thank you, Shirley! I will be standing down as Chair this year but will continue to serve on the Committee where I will assist with the reserve management portfolio. The committee and I recommend that the chair be occupied by the ever-capable Matt Gennrich.

Buoyed by generous funding from our supporters, and under the experienced eye of Dave Bowmer (our reserve manager), FOSTER has revamped all the trails in Cape St Francis Nature Reserve, cleared woody alien invasive plants and conducted routine maintenance of paths and firebreaks in all the reserves. The revamped trail to the “two bays lookout” has attracted a lot of positive comment.

As Treasurer, Emily Buchanan has ensured FOSTER’s practices are aligned with our constitution and the law, generally, and has ensured fiscal oversight. She and Matt Gennrich have done a superb job marketing FOSTER’s activity and attracting new members. At the end of 2021, membership stood at 229, the highest ever. Matt has also kept tabs on the proclamation process which is, believe-it-or-not, on the cusp of fruition.

Led by Trudi Malan, our website has received a much-needed makeover. Trudi also oversaw the production of new trail maps, which are available on the website. Thanks to Wentzel Coetzer of Conservation Outcomes for digitising the trails and preparing the maps. Trudi also designed our new logo (displayed above) that features a plant (Red satyr) emblematic of our region. Thanks Trudi!

FOSTER is delighted to include in the reserves part of the extensive trail network for cyclists in the Greater St Francis region. Trevor Gascoyne has facilitated productive dialogue between FOSTER and the St Francis Cycle Club representing the many cyclists who use the trails in the nature reserves. The Cycle Club have agreed to provide R20 000 per annum for the maintenance by FOSTER of cycle trails. Trevor and Matt Gennrich erected our new, robust “no cycling” signs (thanks to Wentzel for the poles) prior to the holidays; fortunately, only a few were vandalized.

Paul Nicholson, with the help of other FOSTER members ran a highly successful Golf Day, and the Cape St Francis Resort, assisted by FOSTER, organised a Fun Run during the holidays. Nita Claassen has agreed to revive the FOSTER jol during 2022.

FOSTER continues to benefit from generous donations from supporters, despite the economic hardships; over the past year we attracted membership fees and donations totaling R298 501.92. This included an exceptionally generous donation from Anne-Marie Ferreira and a healthy injection of funds by Myles Japhta for the revamp of trails for the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve.

We are delighted that despite 2021 being another Covid-dominated year, and six months of intense done work in the reserves, we showed a negligible shortfall of merely R2509.65. We are planning a year of even more work thanks to promises of large contributions in 2022.

The new committee with some changes was confirmed for 2022. No new nominations were received at the meeting. However, people are welcome to come forward at any time to either join the committee or help with special projects or provide resources.

Committee members for 2022

Membership and responsibilities are as follows:

Richard Cowling       Reserve management

Emily Buchanan       Treasurer, social media marketing

Antoinette Grundling           Secretary

Matt Gennrich                       Chair, marketing and communication and municipal liaison

Paul Nicholson         Fund raising; events

Trevor Gascoyne     Reserve management; networking

Nita Claassen                       Outreach, events

The new Chair, Matt Gennrich took the opportunity to thank the Cowlings for all their dedication and hard work over the years, to get the reserves to the level that they are today. Richard has created a legacy that will not be forgotten, and Matt admitted that he has huge shoes to fill, especially as he is neither a botanist or academic and only became an environmentalist since retiring from the motor industry. The fact that Richard remains on the committee responsible for reserve management will be a huge help and allow Matt to focus on the next steps to proclamation, relationship building and communication with the support and commitment of the other committee members.