Nduduza Khoza, EWT Eco Ranger; Steven Segang, African Crane Conservation Programme Highveld Community Projects Officer; Naledi Hlatswayo, Urban Conservation Programme Eco Schools Intern; and Nkosinathi Nama, Source to Sea Programme Amathole Fresh Water Species Project Coordinator
World Wetlands Day is officially celebrated on 2 February, and this year’s theme was “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction.” The EWT celebrated South Africa’s special and vulnerable wetlands with a number of events and activities throughout the month of February.
Celebrations kicked off on World Wetlands Day itself, when team members from the African Crane Conservation Programme and Threatened Amphibian Programme hosted a stand at an event at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland. Despite the 35 °C heat, the day was a huge success, with 300 learners from 10 schools discovering the value of our wetlands! The EWT’s stand was biodiversity-focused, and covered the links between the species that live in the wetlands, and others that use the wetland for different activities. The learners were very enthusiastic and keen to learn more, and were given information packs about wetlands to take home with them.
Members of the African Crane Conservation Programme also hosted Laerskool Chrissie on 15 February for a special outing to celebrate our wetlands. Seventeen grade 6 learners were taken on a field trip on one of the farms in the area, and Steven Segang, Highveld Community Projects Officer, highlighted the importance of celebrating wetlands as well as securing and protecting them, as they are vital in providing clean water. The group also did miniSASS with the learners and they enjoyed identifying invertebrates and seeing fish in the river system. miniSASS is a simple tool which can be used by anyone to monitor the health of a river. A sample of macroinvertebrates (small animals) is collected from the water, and depending on which groups are found, this gives a measure of the general river health and water quality in that river.
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, hosted a World Wetlands Day Celebration on 17 February 2017 in Esselen Park Pan, Tembisa. The purpose of this event was to increase awareness around the importance of wetlands amongst the communities surrounding the Esselen Park wetland. The EWT was invited to showcase the work we do to conserve wetlands, and the species dependent on them, across South Africa. Visitors from local communities, schools, and partner institutions enjoyed presentations and entertainment by cultural dancers and drummers. School children were also invited to share the importance of wetlands through story telling.
On 24 February, the EWT, Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA), Amathole Forestry Company PTY (LTD) (AFC) and Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) hosted an event for learners aimed at promoting awareness about the importance of wetlands to society and healthy, functioning ecosystems. Forty learners from Phandulwazi Agricultural School, Siyabonga Secondary School, Gcato Secondary School and Crab Bush Primary School were invited to spend the day outside, in an actual wetland, situated high up in the Amathole Mountains on AFC land. Learners ranged from grade 5 to grade 9, and this event offered them a chance to experience firsthand what they had been taught in their curricula in school. In addition to the 40 learners, six students who have been trained in environmental practices by the Nkonkobe Economic Development Agency (NEDA) were given practical experience in environmental education by assisting with the day’s activities and contributing to the education of the learners.
The programme was developed by WESSA’s Kerry Mclean and Ntosh Tsheyi, with contributions from the other partners. The day’s activities highlighted four main topics, namely Wetland Ecology, Wetland Soils, Impacts on Wetlands and Functions of a Wetland. A station was set up for each of these themes, and manned by an expert from one of the organisations and either one or two NEDA students. Learners attended each station in a mixed group of ten learners per group. The day was concluded with lunch kindly donated by AFC and an informal debriefing session where learners had to give feedback about what they’d learnt and how they would apply it in future within their communities.
This was the first such event hosted by the four organisations, and the hope is that it becomes an annual event that can be grown and spread throughout the rest of the catchment. The main objective for the EWT’s Source to Sea Programme is promoting healthy catchments for increased water security to benefit all, and such an event plays a critical role in educating future custodians of the catchment about the important role they play.
Thank you to RMB, EU Aid, European Union, Nedbank Green Trust, N3 Toll Concession, Greater Edendale Mall, DEA, GDARD, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, WESSA, AFC, DAFF and NEDA for their support.