Conservation of Agricultural Resources (CARA)

What do I need to know?
What does it entail?
Key definitions
Tips and best practice
Key contacts
Mandating legislation
Who is responsible for CARA from a Government perspective?

CARA is an act with a National scope and is enforced by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) through its Directorate Land Use and Soil Management. 

It is implemented on ground level in the Western Cape by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, through the Sustainable Resource Management Directorate, sub-programme LandCare.  It is rarely implemented in isolation, however, as its implementation forms part of programmes that also implements other acts and projects.  

Conservation of agricultural resources is one of the main responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture.  It includes the protection of agricultural resources like soil and water by means of a number of mechanisms.  The operation of this act also ties in with environmental legislation like the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). 

It is especially important as approval needs to be obtained from the Department of Agriculture to perform certain activities, the most common one being approval needed to cultivate virgin soil.  

But you may want to ask - how can this benefit me?


As with other compliance matters, it is important to obtain the relevant approvals to avoid being issued a fine or a directive to do remedy the situation.  The process of applying under CARA could also benefit you, as it will form part of a greater anaylsis and farm planning where the Extension Officers of the Department of Agriculture could be of assistance with other matters where input might be needed.     

Mandating legislation

Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, Act 43 of 1983 (CARA)

Key definitions to understand in the context of CARA
Extension officer
Land user
Natural Agricultural Resources

Extension Officers in our context are representatives of the WCDOA, that act as intermediaries between the Department and the land user or owner.  They act as advisors and facilitators for all services provided by the WCDOA, including assistance with applications under CARA.  There are a number of Regional offices of the WCDOA where the Extension Officers are situated.  

Any person (incl. a company, closed corporation or a trust) who is the owner of the land in question, who leases the land or has any legal right to use the land, the plants or other organic matter from the land, whether that person lives on the property or not.  

Any person (as above) in whose name the land in question is registered, or if such land has been purchased but not registered, the purchaser.  The owner is also a person who has the right of ownership, even though the land has not been registered in such a person’s name.  If this person could not be found, the person’s representative will be regarded as the land owner.  

The soil, water resources and vegetation, excluding weeds and invader plants.  

Understanding the approvals needed

The land user or owner needs to obtain a confirmation that it is CARA compliant from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.  This is obtainable through an application process with the local Extension Office of the Department.  

The process
  • Initial contact with district manager or WCDOA: The land user will make contact with the District office of the WCDOA, or make contact with the WCDOA directly, in order to advise that it intends to develop virgin land;


  • Mapping of property: For the cultivation of virgin soil, the Extension Officer will assist the land user to map the property, and indicate where new developments will take place;


  • Filling out of application form: The application form is filled out together with the Extension Officer and signed by the District Manager.  On the form for cultivation of virgin land, it is indicated which fields on the farm map will be cultivated;


  • Inspection by Extension Officer: The Extension Officer will inspect the property and collect data, in order to determine whether any other activities in terms of CARA might be triggered;


  • Reporting to DAFF: The Extension Officer will draw up a report outlining the application details and submit it to DAFF;


  • Feedback to land user by DAFF: DAFF would then notify the land user of the specific triggers and what needs to be done to achieve compliance;


  • Filing of information: DAFF would also send the outcome of the application to the local Extension Office, where it will be filed;


  • Further inspections and updating of file: The Extension Officer will have the responsibility to inspect the property on an ongoing basis and update the land user’s file once the land is cultivated or the relevant activity has taken place.  

the process

Initial contact


Mapping of property

Fill out application form

Inspection by Extension Officer

Reporting to DAFF

Feedback to land user by DAFF

DAFF will file information do inspections and update as needed