Wonderbag

Sometimes, simple things are completely wondrous. Like the Wonderbag, for instance. While the fabulously coloured shwe shwe creations so popular right now are new, the concept isn’t. Remember Hay Boxes and hot bags? Cooking in flasks and heb coolers? The idea is exactly the same, but food prepared in a gorgeous, plump green and red bag (or purple or turquoise) seems a lot more special than a polystyrene box lined with old towels. Of course, the real point is saving energy, but a dash of style never did the green cause any harm.

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Ideal for soups and stews, rice, beans and curries – food that usually cooks long and slow. Prepare your dish as you would on the stove top, add less liquid than usual as none is lost during cooking, bring to the boil and after a few minutes (you will learn how to judge the right amount of time – longer for chicken, less for a veggie curry), pop the lid on and place into the Wonderbag on top of a dishcloth, put the cushion over the pot, draw up the sides and tie closed.

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Now you can go off gardening or dancing or visit a neighbour without having to think about food burning or overcooking. It retains heat for up to 12 hours – fabulous to come home to a warm meal perfectly cooked after a long day in the garden.

“The Wonderbag has become the microwave for me, I don’t need to reheat food anymore. It saves so much energy.” Lindiwe Mkhize

Nyasa Makena’s Wonderbag Stew

  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 4 potatoes

Heat oil in a pan and fry onions and leeks with a teaspoon of curry powder. Add the chopped cabbage, potatoes and a little water and cook for 15 minutes. Put the pot into a Wonderbag to finish cooking. Serve with macaroni.

Wonderbags are available in the PlanetPellet hut the Community Garden.

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HABASHWE! Indaba emayelana nokubholwa okwenqatshelwe KwaZulu-Natal

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Abazingela igesi namafutha KwaZulu-Natal bahlangane nembibizane kanye nezinsongo zokuyiswa kwalenkampani yokuhlola evela eTexas, enkantolo ngenxa yokuphula imigomo emayelana nemvelo. Inkampani iRhino Resources ifake isicelo ukugunyazwa ukucinga igesi, nowoyela nokunye endaweni enamapulazi ayizinkulungwane eziyishumi, endaweni ethatha amaphesenti ayishumi nesithupha maphakathi nesifundazwe.

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Ngemuva kochuchungechunge oluvuthayo ngesikhathi semihlangano yomphakathi emadolobheni amaningana ngenyanga eyedlule, abakwaRhino baxwayiswe ukuthi bangabhekana nezinyathelo zenkantolo ngenxa yokuphambana nemigomo emayelana ne Fracking egwema ukubholwa noma ukuqhumbuzwa kwezindawo lapho kungadungeka imifula, imithombo kanye namaxhaphozi.

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Emihlanganweni yomphakathi ekade ise Ashburton, Lions River, Mooi River nakwezinye izindawo, abaRhino bathola ukuphikiswa kakhulu ngabalimi bendawo kanye namalungu omphakathi. Abanye babephethe izingqwembe ezibhalwe “Angifun’ Ifracking”, “Amandla elanga Kunawe Gesi”. uPhillip Steyn wakwa Rhino Oil & Gas wahluleka ukuphendula imibuzo eminingi, Omunye wawo ilapho ebuzwa uFrancois Du Toit ophethe iAfrican Conservation Trust ukuthi bazimesele ngokudlisa ushevu abantwana abangaki ukuze bagcwalise amaphakethe abo noma bafeze izidingo zabo.

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Umphakathi waKwaZulu- Natal uzokhumbula futhi kumele ukuxwaye ukuthi inkampani yakwa Soekor yachitha iminyaka, ubhola izimbobo ngemishini ngesikhathi sangama 1960 kodwa abazange bawuthole uwoyela.

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Balinganiselwa kwizinkulungwane ezintathu abantu asebesayine isicelo simayelana nokungavumeli ukuhlolwa ngalaba abafake lesisicelo semvume. uNikki Brighton wase Dargle uthe “abantwana besikole bangenele ngokuthi babhale izincwadi eziphikisayo, zithumelelwe kuhulumeni.

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Umhlangano owawuse Matatiele wavalwa uModimo Lebenya ngelithi habashwe, ukhala ngokungabi khona kwenhlonipho kulaba abafaka isicelo ngokungaceli imvumo kuye kuqala Ngaphambi kokuba baze ukuzomutshela ukuthi bazokwenzani endaweni yakhe kanye nabantu bakhe. Elinye ilunga lomphakathi kade liqeda ukubabuza ukuthi bayayazi yini iNkosi yakulendawo abakhuluma ngayo, laqhubeka lathi banenhlanhla yokuthi abantu sebaphucezeka bayalalela ngoba ngesikhathi esidlule bebezovele bathi “HABASHWE” bashiswe babulawe.

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Hlanganyela kanye nathi kwiMashi emayelana nokuguquka kwesimo sezulu, ezobe iseHowick, ngeSonto, ngesikhathi kugamanxa ihora leshumi nanye, ezobe ikuMain Street iphelele eNogqaza

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Little Green Heroes

Young environmentalists from Mpophomeni, dubbed ‘Green Heroes’, are determined to make a difference in the world after enjoying the wonder of nature at the Green Heroes Indaba 2015, held in Umgeni Valley in Howick. The Wildlands’ Green Heroes initiative, funded by N3 Toll Concession (N3TC), exposes children from communities around the province to nature – through time spent in reserves learning about the environment and leadership.

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Green Heroes hike in Umgeni Valley

Sixteen Green Hero learners in grades 5, 6, and 7 from Zamuthule, Nhlanhleni and Sifisisihle Primary schools in Mpophomeni learnt the importance of leading by example in their schools and community and being pioneers for local environmental action. They discussed and sought solutions to the environmental and social challenges plaguing our society.

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Green Heroes are the change

Having not been exposed to nature previously, their interest in it grew as they became more knowledgeable about the environment and participated in various activities. They explored the Shelter Falls trail and adventured through the Nature Reserve crossing the river and experiencing the wildlife. They also participated in activities such as Blind Square, which teaches about leadership and working in a team; the climate change picture building game, and conducted MiniSASS tests: a citizen science tool to test river health.

r Young green leaders doing the MiniSASS scoring a citizen science tool to check river health
Young green leaders doing the MiniSASS scoring a citizen science tool to check river health

Over the three days, they learnt more about themselves and discovered ways of improving their immediate surroundings. An ecstatic Akhona Nxele from Sifisisihle Primary School, who particularly enjoyed the Shelter Falls trail, commented, “the beauty of this place has made me realise how important it is to care for our environment and never destroy it.”

Sisanda Mthethwa from Zamuthule Primary vowed that she would encourage her peers to keep the environment clean. “I will ask them to stop littering and instead recycle papers, bottles and plastics as that can give us money and enable us to live in a much cleaner environment.”

r Green Heroes from Mpophomeni Andiswa Ngcobo, Sisanda Mthethwa and Luyanda Morolong enjoying the waterfall
Andiswa Ngcobo, Sisanda Mthethwa and Luyanda Morolong enjoying the waterfall

Green Leadership Manager, Manqoba Sabela, urged the Green Heroes to emulate human rights activist Mahatma Ghandi’s philosophy, “to be the change they want to see in the world”. Green Heroes are a younger version of Wildlands’ Ubuntu Earth Ambassadors – individuals who are passionate about the environment and their communities, who promote active citizenship by holding events, dubbed ‘Citizen Days’. These highlight special days on the calendar and promote activities such as clean ups, tree planting and river monitoring. The young Green Heroes will continue to promote environmental awareness by participating in and assisting with Citizen Days held by Ambassadors in their communities.

r Green Heroes doing the Caterpillar transverse activity which tests communication skills, leadership and ability to work in a team
Green Heroes doing the Caterpillar transverse activity which tests communication skills, leadership and ability to work in a team

Love your environment.

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Mr Mlondi Cele lives in close proximity to an illegal communal rubbish dump that exists and has flourished because for years the rubbish truck did not drive on his street on collection day, the street had been previously inaccessible because one of the RDP houses was built smack bang in the middle of the street blocking access also the road was too narrow and overgrown. He also lives in close proximity of a manhole that is constantly surcharging with sewerage right on the uMthinzima stream, which has become a great contributor of raised E-coli levels in Midmar Dam.

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Baba Cele is one of the Mpophomeni Sanitation Education Project (MSEP) environment champions employed by the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) to monitor the spilling manholes, illegal dumping and to educate people regarding why these problems occur and to find out what can be done to reduce or stop these problems.

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Baba Celes’ interest in these issues started long before the inception of the MSEP project in 2011. He likes to live in a clean healthy environment free from rubbish and the stench of sewerage, so he was very active in engaging with the municipal councillors and bringing up the issues during community meetings which he still attends religiously.

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In his spare time he doubles as a handyman, tilling people’s homes and spends much of his time doing his garden next to the stream, where he is making good use of the floodplain opposite his house. “ I grew up in this area when it was still beautiful, the rivers were intact, the view of the hills were marvellous, it would be nice to see Mpophomeni return to its former glory and be clean and beautiful again” said Mr Cele. He also added that if you love yourself, your environment should reflect the love you have for it. He has much pride and joy in his Kids Club “The Cheetahs’ led by one of his daughters Nomcebo joined by other children from the neighbourhood. He hopes to inspire the neighbours and their children to leave in a beautiful environment.

Mpophomeni Film, The Making

On this day last week MCG got the wonderful opportunity to make a film on all the magic that is going on in Mpophomeni. The film crew from N3TC Toll Concession Pty Ltd was taken on tour around our one year old but splendid garden by Nomfundo Myeni deemed Garden Queen for the day and were highly impressed by the wonderful work that has taken place in the short space of twelve months. “The aim is to help everyone in the community to make better decisions regarding sourcing food, clothes, energy and building materials with great emphasis placed on the benefits of using local.”

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The garden looked amazing for the cameras after the little bit of rain that we received last week. Nomfundo explained our permaculture gardening principles, the importance of companion planting to make the garden pest free. Penz Malinga shared some of her salad recipes that require the use of calendula flowers and shared a bit about Muthi (medicine) plants found in the garden.

Hleziphe and Nelly were there to demonstrate how to use iSitofu and the Wonderbag, products that MCG are agents to sell to people in and around the township. Hleziphe the Seedling Queen was more than happy to share what goes on during her daily routine with the volunteers and to demonstrate the propagation of seedlings in our creative nursery.

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Lindiwe Mkhize shared her passion for the Kids Club the value of teaching children good environment practises and inspiring children to love the environment they live in. “MCG believes that learning from members of one’s own community, who really care about the wellbeing of the community, has a great impact. Mpop Kidz Club meets on Saturday mornings to explore Mpophomeni, monitor the streams, grassland and forest and create useful items from waste.”

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Penz the Water Queen shared her knowledge about the conservation of water and dreams of drinking from the streams in twenty years’ time. This will be possible only if education continues throughout the community and everyone adopts their little piece of the stream to keep free of solid waste. “In collaboration with the DUCT Mpophomeni Sanitation Education Project Enviro Champs we encourage residents to take responsibility for reporting overflowing sewers and monitoring the condition of the streams near their homes.MiniSASS is a very useful tool to measure water quality because it simple, cheap, efficient and anyone can do it. MCG continuously teach the community to do MiniSASS tests to empower everyone to contribute by adopting part of a river.”

Penz also mentioned the Owl Box Project that is in the pipeline, to combat the rat infestation that prohibits many people from maintaining productive gardens.

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The film crew also visited Sifisesihle Primary School, one of the nine schools in Mpophomeni that MCG works with. One of our champion teachers Ms Ausy Mdladla, who is very passionate about environmental issues and gardening brought her whole class along to demonstrate their mulching techniques and show how much they really loved their garden, while Zamile Mtambo took the crew around the wonderful school garden while work was in progress.

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MCG was very proud to show off the work they do in the community and their passion for the garden, environment and their hopes to build a better community. “We absolutely cannot wait to see the final product of the Mpophomeni Film. Mpophomeni Conservation Group is reaching such great heights in such a short space of time. Proof that hard work does pay off. “declared Nomfundo Myeni.

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Nhlonipho – The Toilet Sitter

In our community, many people are ignorant of written text, so word of mouth is the best mode of communication if you really want to get a message across. Many environmental and social issues pamphlets and leaflets just end up in the rubbish unread.

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Nhlonipho Zondo is one of the star actors in the Mpophomeni Sanitation Education Project drama group.  He is the one seen on many occasions with his pants down, on a makeshift toilet seat. He is purely into drama because of talent, and started out with a group called Seta Promises where they were educating the youth about social issues, such as teenage pregnancy, lifestyle diseases and also trying to fight poverty and lack of
employment.

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He is usually seen portraying the role of a lazy, ignorant son who gets told by his mother to take the rubbish out on the day it is due to be collected, however because the  boy is still sleeping when the rubbish truck comes, he misses it, putting the full bag of trash in the sewer instead. This in turn causes a blockage in the system, the plumbers have to be called and reveal that the manhole was blocked by solid waste.

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This account of one of the street drama plays is based on a true story, of course. It addresses some the major environmental challenges in Mpophomeni.  These are: the prevalence of solid waste often due to illegal dumping; water wastage due to leaking taps; the surcharging manholes due to the flushing of condoms, sanitary towels, socks, old underwear, food and feathers down the drains. Residents’ claims of rubbish not being collected are sometimes a sham and negligence is often to blame. It is important for people to know their streets rubbish collection schedule and take their rubbish out when it is due, it is helpful to have the rubbish positioned where goats and other domestic animals cannot reach  it.

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“Being part of the drama group has opened me up to many opportunities to learn about the environment and the wrong we commit unto it.  Previously I did not know that you could tell the quality of the water by the invertebrates you find living in it, or that burning waste leads to bigger issues in the atmosphere. I love the work that I do and it is vital that it is well received by the people in our community to alleviate the work of the plumbers.” Nhlonipho concludes.

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.

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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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Alfred Zuma – River Champion

The wrong Mr Zuma is running the country. Alfred Zuma, from Mpophomeni, has all the qualities of a good president. He has dignity, common sense, a great work ethic, good manners, a ready smile, a sense of responsibility and respect for the earth and people.

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This Mr Zuma heads up one of the DUCT River Care teams and is responsible for the banks of the uMngeni between Midmar Dam wall and the Howick Falls. Last year, DUCT funding dried up, but with his friend Jabulani Nene, Alfred voluntarily continued to clear litter from the trash boom in his canoe every week.

Alfred has been involved with water and waste water since the 1970’s and takes great pride in his work. Not only clearing invasive alien vegetation, but all the garbage people chuck over the banks. It’s unbelievable what people toss, in the hope that it will magically go away. “There is no away. We must teach everyone. The polystyrene boxes from takeaway chips are the worst,” he says. Recently, his team have pulled six big bales of clothes out of the river. They have put them out in the sun to dry and will be donating them to those in need.

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 “People see the water running and think it is ok, but you can’t drink it. I tell them the human body is made up of water and we must make sure there is water for future generations.” He encouraged his youngest son, Londa to volunteer with the River Care team during school holidays, to learn about the work they do and contribute to ensuring our water resources are protected. Londa is now employed as part of the team.

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Landowners concerned with the riparian areas on their properties, have hired the team over weekends to assist and been most impressed. Margie Pretorius comments “Mr Zuma was a pleasure to communicate with, completely reliable and thorough. He and his staff have a real passion for their work.”

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On weekends, Alfred loves to head out on Breakfast Runs with the Abangani Motorcycle Club, on his beloved ‘mfazi mnyama’ – a Suzuki GS 1000.  “I love the bends of the R103,” he says with a grin. With fellow bikers, he enjoys going to rallies in Swaziland and the Eastern Cape. “We pack up the trailer with camping gear and our bikes and off we go.” The Club regularly makes donations to charities in Mpophomeni and kwaChief.

Alfred has dreams of creating a new path along the banks of the uMngeni River from the bridge to Mills Falls. He has picked out the perfect picnic spot beneath Acacia sieberiana trees already! Perhaps it will be called Zuma Park?

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He believes that people will be less likely to discard rubbish if they have access to the river and can see how lovely it is. He will also be working with Mpophomeni Conservation Group to clear a path along the banks of the uMthinzima and uMhlanga to encourage more residents to stroll beside the streams and take pride in keeping the area litter free. “My wife and I like to take walks in the evenings, so it will be my pleasure to make these paths in the place where we live.”

r mpop umhlanga wetland in summer

Alfred Zuma is certainly making a difference in his community, never mind to the millions of downstream users of the uMngeni River.

We Love Mpop

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.”

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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).r nguga Mpop Feb 2015 012

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.”r nguga Mpop Feb 2015 035

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.”

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It certainly is a wonderful feeling to be part of a group that cares about their surroundings and one another.

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The sun was shining and everyone had great fun splashing and swimming in the stream.

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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.

ayanda at save midmar meeting

Ethembeni Family Centre that cares for vulnerable children is keen to adopt a section of onr umhlanga Mpop Feb 2015 148e 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.

r Mpop Feb 2015 164Mpophomeni 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.r umhlanga Mpop Feb 2015 155

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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During February we certainly spread a little love around. Siyanthanda iMpop!