In 1967 Mr Ernst Taeuber returned to the district and acquired numerous properties (Friedrichskron, Georgenau, Greenhill, Fountainhill, Kronsberg) that had originally belonged to his grandparents (Hermann Reiche – 1877), in order to reconstitute as much of the original farm as possible.
The property is located in the picturesque midlands 20 minutes from Pietermaritzburg, outside Wartburg, a farming community settled in the mid-19th century by voortrekkers and German immigrants. Over the years original land-holdings were parcelled off and sold leading to unsustainable units, inevitable degradation of the land and its resources through erosion and over-grazing. This was particularly the case with the farm Georgenau, which had been managed by German Lutheran missionaries.
As a visionary thinker and passionate conservationist, Ernst Taeuber meticulously planned the conservation and catchment layout of the properties, excluding marginal and vulnerable portions from commercial agricultural use, dedicating them instead to conservation. This land rehabilitation was conducted, at great expense during the period 1969-1979.
The Taeuber Management Trust (TMT) was incorporated in 1973 and set its objectives to focus on commercial agriculture, health & the environment and social improvement in pursuit of the ideology of its founder. It has the status of a private company and operates for profit and to build on its capital base. Shares will never be offered to the public.
In 1975 this foresight led to the proclamation of the Hlambamasoka gorge and surrounding conservation area as a South African Heritage site. Since then the Trust has acquired additional conservation land along the uMgeni river with 10.5 km of river frontage. In 2016 the property was placed in a non-beneficiary Trust with objectives of serving the broader community by contributing to research, environmental education and training within the context of “Farming in Harmony with Nature”.
The property comprises approximately 2,200ha of which approximately 780ha is dedicated to commercial cropping (sugar cane & avocados) and the balance to conservation of the bio-diversity of the uMgeni catchment.
The property is endowed with an abundance of infrastructure, having in the past been part of a Lutheran mission station and school as well as having functioned as a dairy in the past.
The infrastructure is and has been developed for purposes of accommodation and we currently boast a conference facility able to accommodate up to 40 delegates, 9 comfortable self-catering, double rooms, of which 7 have double beds and the remainder have two singles, an equipped kitchen and dining room, dormitory accommodation for up to 28 students (each room being equipped with 2 bunk beds) and a rustic bush hut (to get away from modern amenities) able to sleep 14 persons and located in the bush. Further plans are afoot to utilise the remaining facilities.
Various philanthropic initiatives including support in fields of agriculture, nature conservation, natural & veterinary sciences as well as medical & biological sciences. It also engages with persons or institutions for research designed to protect biodiversity. It also provides education and training to suitable persons on sustainable farming and nature conservation.
In support of this ideology the TMT provided the initial “seed capital” grant for the establishment of the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (1979), with Prof. John Hanks as the founding director. Through this relationship the concept of “Farming in Harmony with Nature” evolved. The relationship between the INR and Fountainhill continues to this day. It has been a regular contributor to the WWFSA, the Table Mountain Fund, the SPCA, The Raptor Centre and the Department of Neurosurgery, Groote Schuur. It was also a founder donor to the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), a Southern African initiative, of great significance, that crosses frontiers and ensures protection for the continent’s pool of biodiversity.
Fountainhill does not operate in isolation from the community and has embarked on the formation of a conservancy with two neighbouring properties (Cumberland Nature Reserve [also a SA Natural Heritage site] and Donovale Farming Company), thereby increasing the conservation area to almost 2,200ha, with an abundance of indigenous fauna & flora. The members of the conservancy (Central Umgeni Conservancy) have agreed to traversing rights and this extends both the nature experience and the range of accommodation and experiences desired by prospective visitors. Presently the conversion of the Conservancy into a Biodiversity Stewardship site is being investigated.