The Giant Flag on Graaff Reinet’s outskirts

Graaff Reinet viewed from the Valley of Desolation
Graaff Reinet, 4th oldest town in South Africa, viewed from the Valley of Desolation
Artist impression
Artist impression

Giant Flag project was born based on the vision of creating a real-world embodiment of the values of the South African Flag, a sustainable legacy that would enhance skills, employment, tourism, education and awareness for environmental protection and climate change.  Guy Lieberman, whose brainchild it is, said that the project had massive potential to shift economic realities for the Camdeboo Municipality.  The project is the first initiative of the newly formed tourism troika between Proudly South African, the International Marketing Council and South African Tourism.  Construction of the flag commenced this year and completion is expected in 2016.

The Giant Flag is a legacy project of vast proportions, a celebration of the spirit of South Africa and her people. The 66-hectare flag  will be made up of 2.5 million coloured desert plants  and a four megawatt solar panel field.  The white part  will be a road.

Effectively viewable from space and the size of 66 soccer fields, The Giant Flag will not only claim its place as a natural wonder, but also as a new model of economic stimulus for previously disadvantaged communities. Job creation, clean energy and tourism come together in a world first green innovation project that’s making change happen in South Africa!

The planting phase, an 18-month undertaking that requires the cultivation and relocation of a staggering 2.5 million cacti and succulents, will provide employment for 700 locals. The task of growing the cacti and succulents has fallen on Anton Bouwer, the owner of Obesa Nursery, one of the largest cacti and succulent nurseries on earth. Around 2.5 million plants are needed to complete the flag – and as much as 4 million if a buffer is built around it.

Components of the Flag

giant-flag-1

The Plants

Ferocactus (fer-oh-KAK-tus) photo: Anton Bouwer
Ferocactus (fer-oh-KAK-tus)
photo: Anton Bouwer

Mexican Fire Barrel (Ferocactus) will be used for the red. This ferocactus is known for its brilliant red bloom that appears brighter when wet. The spines provide shade and redirects rain water, making it extremely drought-tolerant and perfect for the Karoo.

Portulacaria afra (por-tew-luh-KAR-ee-uh)
Portulacaria afra
(por-tew-luh-KAR-ee-uh)

Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) will be used for the green. This indigenous succulent has an exceptional ability to soak up CO². It can capture 4 tons of carbon a year per hectare!

Agave isthmensis 'Blue Dan' (a-GAH-vee ist MEN-sis) Photo: Anton Bouwer
Agave isthmensis ‘Blue Dan’
(a-GAH-vee    ist-MEN-sis)
Photo: Anton Bouwer

Blue Butterfly (Agave isthmensis ‘Blue Dan’) will be used for the blue. This plant has a distinctive blue-grey hue and its ability to grow in dry environments makes it an effective bio-energy crop. It’s called “Blue Dan” in honour of ethnobotanist, Dan Lieberman, who died in a car accident on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet.

Echinocactus grusonii (ek-in-oh-KAK-tus groo-SON-ee-eye)   Photo: Anton Bouwer
Echinocactus grusonii
(ek-in-oh-KAK-tus    groo-SON-ee-eye)
Photo: Anton Bouwer

Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii) will be used for the yellow. Also known as Mother in Law’s Cushion, it is a popular plant used in modern landscaping. While it prefers sunny spots, it can survive long periods of time in the dark.

Solar Panels

This is the “heart” of the flag. This solar field will have the ability to provide power to 4000 homes. One third of the solar field will also serve as a canopy for a tourism precinct, comprising a conference venue, boutique guest lodge, rental space for micro enterprise development, training facilities and commercial space, including the parking.

This will be the first commercial scale solar field to harvest rainwater that will be channeled to an underground reservoir, in order to ensure that the Giant Flag is water independent.

The 4 MW of power to be generated by the project will be sold to the local municipality and Montego Foods.

White Road

This is where you get to experience the Giant Flag up close. This white pathway, forming the backbone of the site, allows you to tour the various sections of our Giant Flag.

Cost

The total cost of this project will be about R180-million, which has been broken up into three phases:

• Phase 1 is complete and cost R4-million;

• Phase 2 is under way at a cost of about R5-million; and

• Phase 3 – the build phase – will cost about R170-million.

Funds have been conditionally committed from various institutions, including government and private. Additional funds will be sourced from a crowd-funding initiative, which has been  launched.

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Visit the largest cacti and succulent nursery in the world, Obesa Nursery, 49 Murray Street, Graaff Reinet  ~  049 8922120

Log on to: http://www.obesanursery.com/