France Mtshali Gets up and Does it

France Mtshali, whose surname loosely translates as ‘One who Plants’ admits to not always have been interested in food gardening. After his work of constructing roads and paving in Amberfield ended in 2004, he could not imagine sitting around doing nothing and he needed an income, as did many others. Together with nine other Mpophomeni residents he formed Vuka Wenze Garden Project. The aim of the project was to improve their capacity to alleviate social problems and improve the wellbeing of the general public.

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They approached the iNgonyama Trust and the iNkosi Zuma gave them a piece of land adjacent to the uMthinzima stream. The Zulu Mpophomeni Tourism Experience (ZMTE) assisted them with workshops and training. They identified a market for paprika and other spices and became affiliated with the Spice Association and purchased 35000 paprika seedlings which ZMTE paid for. They tilled the land and planted the seedlings and even had an irrigation system put in place. Unfortunately, because of the strong winds and floods not many of the plants survived. After the failure of the first effort and the lack of promised profit, half the volunteers quit. Since then, other volunteers have passed away and now, ten years later, only France Mtshali and Bongani Madela remain at Vuka Wenze co-operative.

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Their vegetable plot is well fenced and has a big compost heap, barrels of manure tea brewing and lots and lots of vegetables in various stages of growth. On the edge is a pretty little office, a turquoise painted corrugated iron structure, were they hold meetings and change into their gardening gear. Fortunately, free roaming goats and cows (the bane of township gardens) can’t get in, but crows are a bother and Mr Mtshali quips “Scarecrows just don’t work!” He reckons they have plenty of snakes around too and they love eating the strawberries!

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In summer they start at 5am, stop work in the fields to set up their stall on Mandela Drive at 11 and trade until six.  In winter, work in the garden only starts at 7 and they close the stall at 4.30.The corrugated iron Vuka Wenza Stall attracts lots of passing trade on the main road into Mpophomeni, every afternoon.

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“We could really use more young and vibrant volunteers. The perception that young people have that the elderly must work in the fields, is wrong” says Mr Mtshali, his friend Mr Makhathini adds, “The youth of today have become lazy and are allergic to hard work”.

They make most of their profit from leafy greens (imifino). Also popular are their pickled chillies, beans, and a variety of pumpkins, butternuts and squashes. They regularly donate some of their produce to the orphans. “All that is life comes from the soil. If you want to live long, live on greens and eat fresh, locally grown food.” he concludes.

Frans Ntshali and friends at Vuka Wenze Farmstall.res

uNobhamukwe – Wattled Crane – Bugeranus carunculatus

Nkanyiso Ndlela, Environmental Education Officer for the KZN Crane Foundation based in Nottingham Road wrote this article about endangered Wattled Cranes.

Lolu uhlobo lwenyoni yalapha eAfrica engasabonakali neze kulesikhathi samanje. Iyenye yezinyoni ezintathu ezinkulu zalapha e Africa okubalwa kuzo Indwa (Blue crane) eyaziwa njenge nyoni yesizwe salapha eningizimu Africa kanye nonoHemu (Grey crowned crane). Lenyoni iyona enkulukazi kunalezi ezinye kanti ithembele kakhulu emaxhaphozini kanye nasezindaweni eziyisikhotha lapho kunotshani khona obuyimvelo ukuze izalele iphinde ithole khona ukudla okuyizinkalanka, izimpande, izinambuzane, amaqabunga, njalonjalo. Lezinyoni ziyabonakala nakulamazwe, iNamibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe njalonjalo.

Wattled Cranes by Pat Cahill
Wattled Cranes by Pat Cahill

Ucwaningo luyaveza ukuthi loluhlobo lwalenyoni inani lazo beselehle kakhulu eningizimu Africa ngenxa yokuphazamiseka kwendawo lapho ziphila khona kanye nokungcoliseka kwamaxhaphozi. kodwa ngokubambisana nabezolimo kwe EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust), (EKZNW) Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, (KZNCF) KwaZulu Natal Crane Foundation kanye nezinye izinhlangano ezibhekelela zinakekele imvelo, imiphumela emihle iyabonakala.

Ngale kobuhle bazo. Lezinyoni zihlonishwa kakhulu ngokuba abazali abaqotho emachwaneni azo njengoba zibambisana kusukela zakha isidleke kuya ekukhulisweni kwama chwane kungenako ukuthi khona umsebenzi kaMama noma okaBaba. Ziphinde zibe isibonelo esihle sothando nokuthembeka njengoba masezikhethene azihlukani ziphila impilo yazo yonke zibambisene ebudlelwaneni, okungamangazi ke ukuthi ziphila iminyaka eminingi elinganiselwa kwengaphezulu kwama shumi amabili nanhlanu (25). Okusobala ke ukuthi sikhona isifundo esingasifunda kulezinyoni kakhulukazi ukuthembeka ebudlelwaneni kanye nokuba abazali abaqotho.

Wattled Crane pair and chick by Crystelle Wilson
Wattled Crane pair and chick by Crystelle Wilson

Umphakathi nawo uyanxuswa ukuthi ubambisane nalezinhlangano ekunakekeleni nokungalimazi lezinyoni. Uma kwenzeka uyibona lapho zitholakala khona uyacelwa ukuba ujabulele ubuhle bayo ngokuyibuka nje ngaphandle kokufuna kuyibamba okanye ukubamba ichwane lazo noma ukuthatha amaqanda azo. Uma kwenzeka uyibona endaweni lapho ilimele okanye ifile. Uyacelwa ukuba wazise laba abalandelayo. Asibambisaneni ukuvikela invelo yethu ukuze nentsha yakusasa bayijabulele lenvelo iphinde izuze ngayo.

Wattled Crane in flight by Crystelle Wilson
Wattled Crane in flight by Crystelle Wilson

Crane Contacts:

Nkanyiso Ndlela Environmental Education Officer KZN Crane Foundation  073 927 3212

Tanya Smith
Senior Field Officer
African Crane Conservation Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: 083 394 7476

Brent Coverdale
Animal Scientist: Mammals and Birds
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: 033 845 1449

Nomonde Mxhalisa
Communications Manager
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: 011 372 3600

Citizen Science is Seriously Cool

Recently, the Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) hosted a Citizen Science Tools Workshop focussed on water, in Mpophomeni.  70 people attended, some of whom were scientists, others were students, representatives from school enviro clubs, members of MCG and Enviro Champs from Mpophomeni and from the neighbouring community of KwaMevana. There were even visitors from Sweden.


The purpose of the workshop was to learn about and try out six different Citizen Science tools that are used to test and teach about the environment with focus on water. Liz Taylor of DUCT gave a brief introduction of the day’s festivities followed by Ntombentle Mtambo of Mpophomeni Conservation Group (MCG). Ntombentle spoke about preserving the essential resource that is water and suggested various ways to save water in our own homes. She highlighted the importance of practical, active learning and motivated the youth to hlonipha – to respect themselves and their surroundings.  “We are not teachers, we are co-teachers. You children need to come forward to teach others. We can learn from each other! Together we can make a difference, you have the power. It is not good just knowing the theory in your mind, you must practice it to understand more. You must smell it and touch it and try it! Do it practically and learn! Today we are going to be citizen scientists!”

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Charlene Russell of WESSA Eco Schools described Mpophomeni as an environmental education and biodiversity hotspot. She encouraged learners to enter their environmental efforts into various science projects and Expos.  Lindokuhle Sithole of EcoWonders said “It is great to come together as people who are passionate about the environment and learn more about what we can do to preserve it for future generations”.  Eco Wonders are a group of youth that reports and follows up on water wastage in KwaMevane.

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The participants were then divided into six groups to take on the role of being Citizen Scientists for the day – rotating between six different demonstration stations. Citizen Science means ordinary citizens like you and me can participate in conducting scientific research.   “What a great day, I learnt a lot too. It would be good to have these activities more often.” said Nkululeko Mdladla.

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At the first station Baba Cele was assisting the participants test out water samples of different levels of turbidity using the clarity tube.  Samples of water from Mpophomeni streams ranging from really dirty to cleaner were used as examples.  Everyone enjoyed peering into the tube.  Tutu Zuma asked “How does the water get dirty? It starts in your homes.”

Mpophomeni Conservation Group - Water research day -Baba Cele explaining how to use a turbidity meter

At another Bonisile Mnguni and Sthe Nkomo were sharing the challenges and general experiences as River Care team workers clearing river banks of invasive alien vegetation and rubbish. After their short presentation, everyone picked up litter in the area surrounding them.

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Thandanani Luvuno and Thululeni Nxumalo were stationed at the drama stage where participants were briefed on the script and were given roles to play. The drama was intended create awareness around the dangers of not taking out your rubbish on time for the municipal collection and the dumping of household waste in storm water drains and sewerage manholes. It was about basic sanitation – as in what actually is supposed to go into your toilet bowl. My Andersson and Karolina Lidsell had their big acting break playing the very important truck driver! “We believe that theatre is a very good way to engage people in society issues and all participants seem to very much enjoy this station,” they commented afterwards.

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Charlene Russell had created a virtual river to demonstrate MiniSASS (South African Scoring System).  The health of the river was calculated by looking at which Invertebrates could be found and working out a total from their sensitivity scores.

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Although some of the learners had done MiniSASS in the rivers before, this was a quick way of demonstrating the method – and of course, MANY more invertebrates could be found that are usually in the Mpophomeni streams.

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Ayanda Lipheyana shared his experiences as an MSEP Enviro Champ and showed participants how to fill in data collection sheets to report surcharging manholes and burst pipes.  Lindiwe Mkhize of MCG really enjoyed meeting new people and hearing about the work that they do.

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Ayanda Khweli and Fresh Ngubo illustrated the differences between a healthy river and a contaminated one using the Enviro picture building game.  Mondli Mazeka of African Conservation Trust said “We enjoyed the activities a lot.”

Discovering new issues in the picture

The overcast weather did not get in the way of the activities and it was an enjoyable experience being a Citizen Scientist for a day. MCG hopes it does not stop here and becomes a regular activity for Mpophomeni residents in the future.   Hope Makhanye said “I can see that people are not always the problem. we have people in places where things are good and people in places where things are bad. It’s the actions that people do that cause the problems. If we do good, good things happen.”

Thanks to Rotary PMB who sponsored the occasion.

MCG plans to host more community learning and sharing days in future.

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