During February, the activities of the Mpop Kidz Club were filled with love. Rescuing a chameleon from the river, crafting cards for Valentine’s day, adopting bits of the stream, delightedly discovering places that make Mpop special, sharing knowledge with others and splashing in the sunshine. Activities were funded by the DUCT Mpophomeni Sanitation Education Project (Rotary) and MCG (N3TC).
The monthly walk across the road to Nguga stream revealed masses of bright red hot pokers – Kniphofia caulescens – in flower. Sihle Mnikathi explained to everyone the importance of citizen science and the opportunity that everyone has to care for the planet by monitoring rivers and doing miniSASS tests. “MiniSASS is very cheap and anyone can conduct the tests, both literate and illiterate people.” He said. “It is important that we monitor Nguga stream because it feeds Midmar dam which feeds us all with fresh clean water.”
At the first miniSASS site we found flatworm, crabs or shrimps, minnow mayflies, dragon flies, bugs and beetles and snails – a score of 5 (largely modified).
In site two Ntokozo Kunene noticed that river has condition has improved (score 5.6). As nobody was cleaning the river, he concluded “Nature can take care of itself if it not disturbed and it can recover if has given enough time from whatever impact has caused damage.”
Sihle Ngcobo picked a Kniphofia flower and used it as a microphone to interview Sbonginhlanhla Buthelezi. Sihle asked “Sbonginhlanhla, how are you feeling and what have you learned today?” Sbonginhlanhla said “I am happy and proud to be part and parcel of Mpop Kidz Club because I always learn during outings and I am grateful to be exposed to nature.”
It certainly is a wonderful feeling to be part of a group that cares about their surroundings and one another.
The sun was shining and everyone had great fun splashing and swimming in the stream.
Penz Malinga and Ayanga Lipheyana attended the UEIP ‘Save Midmar’ meeting on 11 February. Many caring people gathered in Mpophomeni to contribute to improved water security in the upper uMngeni River Catchment. Some notes:
Midmar Dam is important for supplying water to almost half the province’s population. The catchment of the Midmar Dam is a highly complex social and ecological system of land uses and activities that affect the flow and quality of water into the dam.
There are major challenges related to improving the quality and quantity of water flowing into the Midmar dam. The quality of water flowing in has declined due to contamination from sewerage, solid wastes, and agricultural activities. Wetlands have been severely degraded and the Mthinzima stream, which runs through the Mpophomeni Township, is impacted by massive pollution in particular from the dysfunctional sewerage systems. Although Mpophomeni occupies less than 3% of the dam’s catchment area, it produced about 51% of the E. coli and 15% of the phosphorous load in Midmar dam. Sewer surcharge and run off from agricultural activities in particular are gradually leading to the development of eutrophic conditions in the dam. If current trends of pollution load entering Midmar dam continue it is estimated that the dam will turn eutrophic by 2028. This will have major economic, social and ecological consequences similar to those now experienced by Hartbeespoort Dam.
MCG believe that be working together with all partners and focussing on education including all members of the community, the water quality of Midmar will be improved.
Ethembeni Family Centre that cares for vulnerable children is keen to adopt a section of one of the Mpophomeni Rivers to look after. This month we hosted 36 children for an afternoon of water sampling on the uMhlanga stream. We did MiniSASS sampling and water testing in two sites – the first in a tributary to uMhlanga stream (miniSASS score 7.2 and water clarity 45 -58 cm – natural condition),
and the second in uMhlanga stream. We found the main stream to be in good condition too with a score of 6.2 and clarity of 30-41, this is good news.
Mpophomeni Conservation Group has been given permission by the Municipality to create a park in the public open space opposite the Community Garden and along the uMhlanga stream. This is an exciting project and we intend to encourage young people from the Mpophomeni Enviro Club, Midlands Meander Education project interns programme and local schools Enviro Clubs to participate in creating something everyone in the area will love.
On Valentine’s Day, a group gathered at the Nokulunga Gumede Memorial to show how much they loved Mother Earth (and their own mothers) by making cards from handmade paper. This simple activity helped the kids to understand how important it is love Nature and to take of Nature.
Samke asked if she could decorate her card with flowers and soon all the kids were picking leaves and different kinds of flowers. While tearing paper and glueing hearts, Uyikhokonke Mthembu said “I wish people can stop hitting horses because I love horses. They are helpful. Especially if you don’t have a car you can ride them and they can take where ever you want to go.”
Tutu Zuma (facilitator) commented “The kids loved making the cards with their hands and decorating with what they have, not wasting money. Parents loved their presents too.”
Ayanda Lipheyana (facilitator) comments “It was very interesting to see how the young kids think about the interrelationship between people and the environment. They learned that they must conserve natural resources for the future generations.”
On 21 February Liz Taylor and Thandanani Luvuno from DUCT joined the group for the day, sampling the water at three sites on the uMthinzima stream – two in Mpophomeni and one at eMashingeni.
From the Mpophomeni library we walked behind the uMngeni Municipality offices to collect our first sample. The river condition was very poor or critical modified (score 3.2)
Then we headed upstream for about 1,5 kilometres, chatting about the different species of grasses we saw. Everyone collected different grass flower species as they walked.
Liz Taylor explained the difference between grasses and other plants. Participants had found lot of different grass species. Liz said “The variety of plants shows that biodiversity is healthy here. If the area was just planted with sugarcane that would be monoculture. Monocultures are more vulnerable to disease, because all the same plants could be destroyed, but in a healthy diverse environment a disease would attack one species and other species will survive.” The youngsters were fascinated to learn that meilies, sugarcane and rice are all grass species!
We conducted the second MiniSASS sampling. Sihle Mnikathi suddenly shouted “Wow, we found a stonefly!” Everyone thought he was joking, but went to look and confirm that his group had found one. We were amazed as no one expected to find the stonefly in Mpophomeni. Sbonginhlanhla Buthelezi said “This is our first stonefly in Mpophomeni and we will find many more in the near future.” The score was 9.8 indicating the stream was in natural condition.
Feeling happy with our exciting find we walked upstream to eMashingeni. Mzwandile Dlamini spotted chameleon floating in the stream and quickly rescued it. “It must have fallen out of the trees” he said, gently holding it for everyone to see.
At site 3 we found 4 stoneflies! We found the average score of 8.2. To find 5 stoneflies in one MiniSASS fieldtrip was an amazing experience for all of us.
Sbonginhlanhla Buthelezi said “I have just fallen in love with the upper part of uMthinzima stream. I wish you could leave me here with this beautiful environment.” Liz Taylor concluded “It was such a wonderful day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Such a stark contrast at the three sites moving from the polluted area in Mpophomeni upstream to the almost totally natural site just below Nxamalala school.”
During February we certainly spread a little love around. Siyanthanda iMpop!