Climate Change and Niche Agriculture

I drink coffee like a reasonable person, but among the tea-heads of the world rooibos tea is booming with huge benefits for people who farm the tiny patch of land where it can grow:

Annual exports of rooibos have quadrupled in the last 13 years. The tea is popular for its perceived health benefits as well as its refreshing taste and has become a trendy drink in many countries. It contains no caffeine and just a tiny amount of tannin.

But rooibos tea only grows in this Western Cape region – nowhere else in the world.

“Rooibos is endemic to this area, it grows wild here and only here,” said Chris Du Plessis, who runs Elandsberg Eco Tourism.

“If you go up that hill and down the other side you’ll find that 90 percent of the plants that grow there don’t grow on the other side.”

The problem is that this kind of niche product is the canary in the coal mine for climate change. Plants that won’t grow on the other side of the hill also won’t grow if average temperatures go up by four degrees.