The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP) has been engaging local stakeholders (learners, township residents, rural communities and farmworkers) over the past five years as part of its environmental education and awareness activities in Chrissiesmeer. This community outreach is aimed at improving environmental attitudes and behaviour of local stakeholders so that they can actively participate in practical actions to conserve the irreplaceable wetlands in the Mpumalanga Lakes District. These wetlands provide habitats for iconic threatened species such as the Grey Crowned Crane. To maintain the ecological health of the wetlands, it is important to address environmental problems such as pollution and siltation of rivers and streams in the area. Wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes supply water required to sustain the local communities’ livelihoods.
To enhance the local stakeholders’ knowledge about causes and impacts of environmental problems, a citizen science monitoring component, which provides practical opportunities for local stakeholders to participate in water quality monitoring, was introduced in February. Two ACCP staff members, Ursula Franke and Steven Segang, kick-started the process by collecting water samples from a stream that runs through KwaChibikulu Township, Chrissiesmeer. The samples were analysed using the mini SASS toolkit. Going forward, learners, teachers, township residents and community leaders will be involved in water quality monitoring so that they can appreciate the impacts of human activities on water quality and how water pollution affects humans and wildlife. Since erratic water supply and pollution are major problems in Chrissiesmeer, we are confident that water quality monitoring will generate data that local stakeholders can easily understand and highlight the need for action to prevent littering and other forms of pollution. Our long term plan is to use similar participatory citizen science approaches in crane monitoring and wetland assessment.