Menstrual Health Day – Today 28 May

Did you know that you may use 14 000 menstrual pads or tampons during your lifetime?

Multiply this by the thousands of women living in Mpophomeni and it is no wonder that the local sewage system is often blocked and the landfill sites are overflowing.  We hear stories of young women losing out on education because they are not able to afford menstrual products – some say that 30% of South African girls miss school when they are menstruating.

Emily Burnett is trying to make a difference to the situation in Mpophomeni, in partnership with local organisations, and shares the story of how she began this journey.

Before I moved to Africa (from America), I don’t remember giving a thought to how other women around the world manage their menstrual cycles. Buying tampons and pads was a basic necessity for me, a non-negotiable and never given a second thought. I hadn’t the slightest idea that, for millions of women and girl, sanitary products are literally inaccessible or an unaffordable luxury.

But my worldview began to change when I turned twenty-one and moved from Wisconsin to a rural village in Cote d’Ivoire. I settled into an Ivorian host family and shared a room with five host sisters between ages seventeen and twenty-two. They became my companions and cultural guides and taught me the way of life for young, unmarried women in their context and culture.

Ivorian Host Family
It did not take me long to notice their struggle with menstrual management. Disposable pads were available at little wood-frames shops along the dirt paths, but they were expensive and most girls could not afford them. The only alternatives were old rags, mattress foam, leaves, or straw. Of course these materials led to infections and were not effective in absorbing heavy flow. My sisters sometimes skipped school in order to avoid an embarrassing leak. Their school, like most in rural areas, did not have clean bathroom facilities or running water, making it doubly difficult to maintain good hygiene during menstruation.

After eight months in my host family, I traveled to a handful of other countries in West Africa and heard the same story again and again. It was humbling and frustrating to accept that my personal experience of managing menstruation, one that did not interrupt daily life or cause serious health issues, was unimaginable for so many women and girls. I decided not to ignore this reality.

Project Dignity Activation

I now live in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and I have connected with three local organizations that exist to break down the taboo around menstruation and bring sustainable solutions to adolescent girls. I am certainly not the only one passionate about seeing girls unhindered from pursuing their dreams and fulfilling their valuable role in society. The following organization provide hygienic, effective menstrual care products to girls and are worth knowing about:
Project Dignity: Founded by Sue Barnes, this organization distributes packs of washable, 100% cotton panties and pads to high school girls in rural communities. This product is designed to last for five years. Project Dignity hopes to end school absenteeism due to menstruation and lower school drop-out rates.

Dignity Campaign: This organization’s goal is to empower girls with knowledge about their innate value and worth, while providing them with menstrual health education. Dignity Campaign facilitators host workshops for groups of girls, creating a safe place for discussion about femininity, relationships, menstruation, sex, social pressures, and a variety of other topics. Every girl leaves the workshop with a set of washable cloth pads or silicone menstrual cup. Dignity Campaign aims for a deep cultural change by weeding out lies and speaking truth with one girl at a time.

Pink: Launched in October 2017 in the KZN midlands area, this organization seeks to supply earth-friendly menstrual management products and education to women and girls. It also creates jobs through a network of community agents and ambassadors. They supply beautiful, budget-friendly cloth pads, silicone menstrual cups, and degradable disposable pads made out of natural fibres.

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I have partnered with Steph Bridle and a few other young women to run the Cherish Dignity Program (developed by the Dignity Campaign) in Mphophomeni.

We are currently facilitating the twelve-week program with twenty girls from the community, and our hope is to see more women trained as facilitators in order to reach a wider number of girls every term.

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Midlands Pink representatives, Kimberley Kunene and Wendy Mkwanaza attended the Dignity Campaign facilitators training in Johannesburg from 23-29 April 2018.  Kim reports: “We were equipped to train individuals and groups to increase their capacity in addressing issues that women and girls face in our communities. The program focuses on issues such as healthy menstrual management, education, and making informed choices about which menstrual products to use.  We love that the program covers topics like Identity, Purpose, Belonging, Sisterhood, HIV/AIDS, Human Trafficking, Relationships, Puberty, and of course, Menstrual Management.”

Emily, Kim, Steph, Wendy
Emily Burnett, Kim Kunene, Steph Bridle, Wendy Mkwanaza

​Today May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day. According to this website, Menstrual Hygiene Day “will help to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.” If you want to be part, here are a few ideas for you!

​Keep learning about the realities faced by real girls and women around the world and develop a sense of compassion that will motivate you to act.

Start Conversations with your friends and family about some of the stigmas around menstruation in your own community. Discuss ways that you can help change negative ideas and turn shame into appreciation and celebration of the natural, beautiful cycle our bodies go through.

Partner with people and organizations that are helping girls and women find their innate value, dignity, and purpose. If you live in KwaZulu Natal, start with one of the organizations listed above!
​Someday, Emily hopes to go back to Cote d’Ivoire and bring some sustainable solutions to girls in the village she lived in for eight months. “It is hard to know that my host sisters probably still do not have good options to manage their periods, and menstruation is likely still a taboo topic in their community. But I am grateful for what they taught me about life as a young woman in rural Africa. Those lessons will continue to spur me on to love the women and girls around me so that they will know their beautiful place in this world.” she concludes.

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Contact Emily on 076 355 5070

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Sibuyisela Ulwazi

Mnandi was honoured to be invited to participate in the Biowatch SA Siybuyisela ulwazi Food and Seed Festival last week.   We sold many recipe books, made great connections, shared stories and seeds, and learnt a lot.  Biowatch SA organised the festival to celebrate the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures, exchange knowledge and ideas and explore innovations in support of food sovereignity, social and environmental justice.

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Presentations about all the things we are passionate about were by inspiring and knowledgeable people. There were talks of seed and African spirituality, the Food Price barometer, GMOs, Climate Smart Agriculture (not so smart), the benefits of fermentation, Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, beautiful music made from the humble calabash and a myriad of food activists to connect with.   Legendary Permaculturalist John Nzira asked “What is the difference between seeds and money?”  Amongst all these seed savers and defenders of our food diversity the answer was unanimous – seeds hold our future. The diversity of seeds is the key to life. Phansi GMOs Phansi!

The climate-friendly vegetarian lunches were superb and we also got to taste traditional umqombothi and umqusho, peanut soup, sorghum, celery and apple salad and too many other things to mention.  Ntombenhle Mntambo shared her fantastic Rainbow Salad (all ingredients grown in her Mpophomeni garden) and talked about healthy eating.

Ntombenhle salad

We were proud to share the kitchen with author and dietician, Mpho Tshukudu. She inspired us with her talk African Food is Healthy, Beautiful and Delicious, singing the praises of our heritage foods (naturally low GI) and sharing new ways of preparing them.  Her book with Anna Trapido – Eat Ting is very interesting.

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Agro-Ecological Farmer and activist Richard Haigh talked about the way Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates.  Forager and Wild Food Champion Loubie Rusch shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens.  Gogo Qho followed with a passionate presentation about wild plants that are her food and medicine, the importance of traditional and indigenous food culture and the value of leafy greens for good health.

The festival truly celebrated the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures and advocated for a just and healthy food system. 

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Comments from our group:

Nathi Adam – It was a fruitful day. The pure seeds and food displays, prepared by passionate people were amazing and all the talks were inspiring. I learned and saw the Earth differently after the talks. The food tastings were wow!

Traditional music goes well with traditional food prepared by people who care about what they eat. I was taken aback to see people enjoying themselves in this way. I loved talking to Sazi Dlamini and networking with many others.

It was saddening to realise that industrial agriculture is killing our earth. I learned that we need to put more effort into educating and assisting one another to take serious care of ourselves and our mother Earth, in order to realise better health and wealth in the Permaculutre way.  We have plenty of natural resources in Africa, but we should not misuse and abuse them. People Care plus Earth Care equals plenty for us and our children and their children.

Zandile Sikhakane – I learned a lot about seed and food that keeps us healthy. I took note of the importance of preserving our seeds, so we do not have to buy more.  Everyone who presented explained very well and answered the questions well. My favourite guest was John Nzira. He inspired me a lot about our food culture and urban farming. I was so happy to see Sazi Dlamini playing music out of the food we eat. I learnt how to plant sweet potatoes.

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Njabulo Mokoena – I enjoyed talking to different kinds of people in different languages. I learnt a lot from farmers like John Nzira and that if you respect nature, it will respect you back. I tasted food that was very delicious. There was African traditional food that I have never eaten before – like amabele.  I was so inspired by the farmers, that the day afterwards, I started a small garden at home. It was a beautiful event.

Mary Mlambo – I met many wonderful people, especially John Nzira. He spoke about how the love of money overpowers our love for seeds and nature that actually gives us life. “We can throw money on the ground and it won’t grow, but throw seeds on the ground and watch them grow into food.” That gave me a lot of motivation. I was thrilled to taste delicious indigenous foods that were prepared with so much love. I even got iHali, a very rare fruit I have not seen since I was a young girl. I had fun.

Mary Mlambo food is medicine

Eidin Griffin – I felt deeply honoured to be amongst such incredible earth workers and ethical food producers. Meeting the farmers from Pongola, Matubatuba and Lesotho was a profound privilege and I was able to trade seeds, shake hands and we could communicate in our special language of seeds rather than a common tongue. Grand gesticulation and a great amount of laughter helped too! Tasting foods created with love and looking at ways to nourish ourselves and our food supply really got my brain and heart excited. I truly hope that this is the start of an incredible annual event and I will share the new information that I gleaned (yes, good word indeed) and plant my new-found seed friends in the soil and nurture them as best I can and hope to return, wiser and stronger with more abundance to share next year.

Nhlakanipho Nzimande – My experience was good, I made many connections with conscious farmers. I learnt about healing herbs and plants and I invited a Khoisan man Q, to visit and perhaps we can work together. I learnt how to build and use musical instruments from Sazi Dlamini. I got cuttings of different plants and different types of seeds. I may go into strawberry production with the lady who sells homemade jams.

Mnandi Heroes Nhlakanipho and Eidin

Ntombenhle Mntambo – Sibuyisela ulwazi was great – food, talks, tastings and meeting people closely. My wish is that we all meet each other as one.  Languge issue is always a problem. I wish Richard, Mpho, John, Loubie could speak isiZulu because the translating of their talks was not that good, it only gave half the information and some people when they get home will say there was not enough information because they did not understand English. I wish the translator had finished everything that was said. The questions are important because it helps those that did not hear correctly to understand better. It was too fast, we need more days – how about 5? It was a very good event.

Xola Keswa – It was a festival which I feel should have happened a long time ago, but I am glad it has happened at last. It included people from all walks of life – from Zululand to the green forested South Coast. Food activists to environmental activists and many gardeners and farmers – a mixture of aware people, with everyone knowing something about what was spoken about from traditional food to traditional music, food tasting and activist talks. Richard Haigh from Enaleni shared his extensive knowledge and food. John Nzira, permaculture guru, was one of the main speakers. He has an incredible record for experience with transforming land into fully productive agroforestry. Environmental activist Method Gundidiza represented Sheila Berry’s Earthlore organisation – the man from Swaziland had a lot of strong words to say. Words that I think that have stained themselves on the minds of many who were there.

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Pinky Dlamini – I had an amazing day. The surprise of my life was the love, caring and communication. I learn about food that I had never heard of. Like one big nation we all eat together. I find friends from different areas- Venda, Cape Town – all these people talking about different things that can shape our lives and our cultures. I think it is up to us to tell people in Mpophomeni what we are doing and how to improve their lives.

Thabani Mnikathi – I enjoyed being around such loving people and seeing people from different parts of the country coming together to share information and life experiences.  I learnt a lot about different cultures, music, food, how to grow food, keep yourself healthy.  The food was delicious – colourful and exciting – a whole new experience.  What is best is that you never knew what to expect. Sibuyisela ulwazi has inspired me to try to make my own personal garden and try some home grown food for a change.

Nikki Brighton – It was marvellous to meet new people as passionate about food as we are and reconnect with fellow food activists. The variety of presentations was exceptional – something for everyone and all contributing towards the goal of food sovereignty.  In particular, I enjoyed the presentation by Richard Haigh who talked about how Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates.  Also enjoyed Loubie Rusch, who shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens. Gogo Qho’s passionate presentation about the plants that are her food and medicine was enchanting and very informative. I found it interesting to learn that Climate Smart Agriculture is not so smart. Meeting the small rural farmers who had brought seeds to share and sell added a real depth to the festival.  I stocked up on all sorts of interesting ideas and ingredients – millet, sorghum, pulses to eat and plant.

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Ntombenhle and Nikki agreed that this was more fun than the Slow Food Terra del Madre event they attended in Italy last year! We could make real connections, learn things that were appropriate to our world and contribute in a more meaningful way. Well done Biowatch SA.

Ntombenhle dancing

 

Being an Owl Mother.

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I fell in love with birds of prey a few years ago while I was still a Game Ranging student. I don’t have a great eyesight so I was glad that I only had to familiarize myself with large-sh birds that would be easier to identify later. I soon found favorites in the Bateleur Eagle whose name means tight rope walker, the Gymnogene now called the African Harrier Hawk, the Lammergeyer also known as the bearded vulture and the common spotted eagle owl. I found that I did not want to persecute them for hunting my warm bodied cousins as I would persecute fellow human beings that do the same as the birds. In my modules I leaned of birds of the night, the Owl and the Night-jars and all the larger sized birds of prey of the day, from hawks to harriers, kestrels to falcon to kites, snake eagles to eagles to vultures and everything in between.

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Bateleur Eagles at Raptor Rescue

We fast forward to a month ago when I got the opportunity to look after a pair of barn owls, rescued after falling through a chimney at Midmar Dam. I was way more than excited, mind you I did not know of any stereotypes attached to witchcraft except for those in the Harry potter movies. I only knew of the owls full of wisdom from the movies that I watched during my childhood.

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Leftovers from owls.

It felt like I had opened a can of worms into the creepiest of worlds where witches hollow out the bodies of owls and give them an enema filled with Muthi to turn them into their own personal zombies and where diviners use the eyes of the murdered birds to grind into a mixture that leads them to seeing far into the future and through the darkness of human misery.

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But like all problems the owls are not the true culprits, we are the ones that dump rubbish illegally inviting the rats, where there are rats there are snakes and we hate the snakes as well even though the earth belongs to all those who live on it. Besides, we cannot except to inhabit the planet alone with the animals of our choice, that is against the true balance of nature and if we believe that witches commit such marvels, they should be able to commit them with whatever animal they wish.

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Pellets regurgitated by owls.

One of the strangest questions I received while spreading the, “owls are our friends” message was, “How will people tell the difference between the zombie owls and the project owls?”  This was tough to answer but I have never seen a zombie owl and neither had the person asking so it was safe to say let us speak only of the owls we have seen and know.

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Regular visitors.

The owls being of a predatory nature meant that I had to feed them a day old dead chicks. The first time I was confronted with the task, I found it quite daunting as they looked like they were still moving while I walked with them thawed in the plastic bowl.

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Day old chicks.

With more days passing and the same task repeated I grew immune. A while after their meal, each owl would regurgitate a pellet made of feathers and bones, sometimes the head of the chick would be in a pellets on its own still whole. My dogs Trevar and Sapphire tried to dig holes to gain access to the cage in the middle of the night to no avail though.

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Gugu at her favorite spot.

Now that the owls have been released, I have to admit that I do miss them. Even my mother who was septic at first warmed up to them, she was afraid of the screeching sound they make but Siphiwe and Gugu did not ever screech at night while they were in Captivity. The neighbors were delighted to have them around and kept checking on their well-being daily. Baba James Mlotshwa said he had so many rats in his yard that he wished they could circle over his house every night catching them.

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Kids at an owl talk at a Thembeni

We would like to extend gratitude to N3TC, Owl Box Project, Predatory Bird project and Raptor Rescue, this would not have been possible without them. We hope the pair breeds and more generations carry on the rodent eating legacy.

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Birds of Prey in action.

We have been working closely with Mpop Kids Club and the Enviro Champs as part of the Owl Box Project. The DUCT Enviro Champs held an activity day where existing knowledge about owls was investigated. The children had to fill in worksheets with various questions relating to owl knowledge. Aphelele Mkhize wrote that she was afraid of owls and she would scream if she saw one, while Amahle swore he had seen one on a rocky outcrop in broad daylight one day. Later everyone enjoyed a presentation where they got to watch videos of owls catching rats and mice, learn fascinating facts about owls like how soft their feathers are and get to ask the itching questions they had in the end many fears faded.

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After hosting a fabulous, successful water festival in the past month, the DUCT Enviro Champs had some prize money which they were glad to spend on the Owl Box Project by having an inspiring trip to the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to many raptor species that are indigenous to Southern Africa, they try and give injured or sick birds from different historical circumstances all the help they need to get in a condition where they can be released back to the wild and all the birds that are homed in the centre are unable to survive on their own in the wild if released.

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A fish Eagle in Captivity

We had a self-guided walk around the many enclosures housing different species some big and some small. We all loved the residents of Hoot Hollow, where owls resided, the most. Mzwa Mokoena was fascinated by their silent flight, the way they can turn their heads 270˚, “They have more bones in their spines than humans and did you know that the male hoots twice and the female replies with three hoots?” he asked.

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A Grass Owl
We were treated to a flight display by Orion the long crested eagle, who has white distinctive windows on his wings that are seen during flight followed by YBK a Yellow Billed Kite that was not able to join the migration to Kenya, East-Central Africa. We closed our eyes to hear an owl fly and all we heard was a small swoosh before he landed on a perch, their silent flight and camouflage abilities make them to appear spirit like because they are not easily seen.

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Most of the raptors we saw caught food with their feet first, except for the little goshawk which has shorter wings and a longer tail and catches food with its beak. The cutest was the little wood owl, the female is called uMabhengwane and the male is called uNobathekeli in isiZulu.

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Belinda with the cute little Wood Owl

Vulture feeding was interesting, we learned that the Cape Vultures were not fighting over food but helping each other tear it apart. Next to the vulture enclosure was a pair of juvenile Beaded Eagles, they are Red Data species and there are only about 320 left in the country.

 

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A juvenile Bearded Vulture

After the excitement we went to the lower Mpushini River where Pandora Long told us the story of how she watched the river die slowly since she was a young woman until its fatality when a farmer dammed it upstream about a decade or so ago.

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We also took a walk along the dry river bed and had a picnic lunch around the fire. We finished off by going to Rick and Emma Hackland’s Aloe Farm in Bishopstowe.  It was originally a rose garden which they found requires a lot of water, they then tried a patch of aloes and found them quite suitable, numbers of different species of aloes have since taken over with very few fragrant roses remain.  Everyone had a great time posing for photographs amongst the aloe flowers. ”I wish I can have this rose in my bedroom, I have never smelled a rose as sweet”, said Amanda.

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Learning more about the owls has changed the perspective of many people, there is much enthusiasm for the Barn owls that will soon be residents in Mpophomeni.  People are asking the big question, “Ziza nini iziKhova safa amagundane?”

Enemies from above coming for the Rats

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Owls are beautiful, interesting creatures that hunt at night and are characterised by their flat face with forward facing eyes. There are twelve different known species in South Africa, the smallest weighing in at 50 g and the largest at 2.5 kg. The three most common in the Midlands are the Barn Owl, the Spotted Eagle Owl and the Wood Owl.  All owls have specially designed soft, fluffy wings that allow them to fly silently while listening out for prey, their tubular eyes are light sensitive allowing them to see their prey in low light conditions while sounds are bounced off their facial disk into little ear holes at the sides of their face and the rats don’t know what hit them until their hanging on that bill.   A family of owls can eat 2500 rats and mice a year.

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After hearing the successes that Eco-Solutions has had in Alexandria township in Johannesburg introducing owls to reduce the rat problem, the Mpophomeni Owl Box Project is to be launched to fight our troublesome rodent infestation that has grown over the years due to a decline in their natural predators. Orphaned or injured owls are taken in by the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, nursed back to health and released back in the wild, deployed to feast on the rodent population restoring balance between predator and prey.  Many people in the community will testify that the infestation is out of hand, it’s only by luck that we don’t hear of rats chewing off the feet of sleeping infants but they do destroy food in the gardens and cupboards, mutilate furniture and, let us not forget, that they carry a multitude of diseases.

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Prevention is always better than cure they say, so we would like people to work with us in eliminating areas that could lead to the rodent population thriving. For example, piles of rubble next to your home and careless disposal of food scraps in the open attract rats.  We should stop treating vacant land as illegal dumping sites because we are only providing the rodents with a habitat to flourish in. We should also avoid using poison to kill the rodents because other domestic animals and little children are also in danger of ingesting and dying from it.

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Rats feasting on rubbish.

A release site will be erected at a private home in Mpophomeni this winter. This is facilitated by The Owl Box Project and Raptor Rescue Centre and funded by N3TC.  Local residents and learners will be invited to visit and educated on the importance of owls in eradicating the rodents. The owls nest in boxes that resemble their natural nesting habitat.  Barn owls nest in cavities, they like dark, quiet places so a big box with a small hole is ideal. Spotted Eagle Owls are not fussy they like open areas so a big box with a wide entrance is home for them and Wood owls live in forests and nest in holes in trees so they have along box with a small hole so that the can crawl all the way to the back. Barn Owls can alter their breeding habits in response to prey numbers, the greater the prey in abundance, the greater the owlets.  We already have a few owls resident in Mpophomeni.

A Barn Owl caught on barb wire
A Barn Owl caught on barb wire

Many owls sustain injuries and death due to colliding with razor fences, electric line and motor vehicle collisions. If you see or find an injured owl, try putting a towel or something over it before you pick it up, because they do have sharp beaks and proceed to call FreeMe (033 330 3036) or Raptor Rescue (076 724 6846) who have trained people to handle sick or injured animals.

This is a joint project of MCG, DUCT Enviro Champs, Midlands Meander Education Project and Funda Nenja and, of course, the Owl Box Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Wild Water Walk

The sun rose high and hot on the morning of the 3rd of October – a perfect day for a Water Festival!

As a part of the Mpophomeni Enviro Club’s work towards becoming Water Explorers, and for the WESSA EcoSchools water project supported by the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Enviro Club members hosted a Water Festival to share what they have learnt about water with their community.

Seven Water Stations were set up along a route which started at the Nokulunga Gumede Memorial Wall, went up Mandela Drive, past the taxi rank, and into Mhlongo Rd, ending  at the Mpophomeni Community Garden.

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Zamile Mtambo of Mpophomeni Conservation Group (MCG) had been collecting cardboard and with some children, painting bright banners to encourage everyone to stop polluting the streams of Mpophomeni.   Her dream is to create a park along the eMhlangeni stream, with a path from the Community Garden all the way to the Library, with clean flowing water, indigenous plants, eco-benches and trees to sit under.

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Each station along the Water Walk focused on a different topic. At the Library the public were enticed to participate and watch a very entertaining edu-active puppet show by Yo-Puppet Co.

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At the next stop, everyone learnt about ‘secret water’ – the water which goes into the production of everyday items (for example: did you know that it take 10 500L to make a pair of Jeans?)  Philani Ncgobo commented “This secret water was the fact that amazed people the most.”

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Youngsters got to experience how water makes music and how the water cycle works.

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Ayanda Lipheyana of MCG/DUCT was not able to conduct a miniSASS test in the stream as the water quality was simply too awful with an overflowing manhole nearby. Instead they did a mock miniSASS and discussed what to do about the dilemma of bursting manholes. We need to encourage residents to take responsibility for reporting overflowing sewers and monitoring the condition of the streams near their homes. Water leakages and sewage problems should be reported to:

  • uMngungundlovu District Municipality Call Centre 080 0864 911
  • Ayanda Lipheyana 076 434 6719

Passers-by learnt how to tell if water is polluted, how to purify it and were encouraged to write their own pledge to protect precious water.

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One station shared ideas on how to save water in your home and garden.

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The Enviro Club kids estimated that they had collectively spoken to 105 people during the course of the morning spreading the message that water is extremely precious.

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Ntombenhle Mtambo from MCG showed the visitors around her waterwise garden, emphasising the importance of swales to harvest and store water and mulch to prevent evaporation.

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” I was so impressed, theses kids know what they are talking about! I liked it that they used real experiences from their home and community to explain.  I thought I knew a lot about water, but they have even taught me somethings today.  I believe that these kids can make a big difference, changing things in our community.”

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Julia Colvin and Bridget Ringdahl from the Water Explorers programme, funded by GAP, attended the festival, and awarded the kids with book prizes for their efforts.

If you missed out on the fun, we hope to have another festival next year during National Water Week in March. Keep your eyes and ears open for news!

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Wilderness Weekend

“This was the best Woman’s Day ever”  commented Antonia Mkhabela as she connected to the Earth hiking barefoot in the mountains.  “It was a very special time which I have never thought I will ever have.  I understand that Mother Earth has so much to give to me. The responsibility I have is to look after her.”  Also without her boots on, Penz Malinga agreed “A real privilege to be in the Wilderness today.”

The hike was part of a three day Wilderness Awareness Weekend at Cobham Nature Reserve organised by the Southern Berg Honorary Officers and Wilderness Action Group (WAG), to provide attendees with a practical understanding and appreciation of Wilderness – philosophy, ethics, the history, value, context and importance of wilderness, and the principles of wilderness management.

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Six environmental enthusiasts from Mpophomeni were invited to attend.  A seminar on the concept of Wilderness was held on the first day, beginning with an introduction to why the Maloti Drakensberg Park so very special.  The unique geomorphology, incredible biodiversity, outstanding cultural heritage, birthplace of rivers and immense natural beauty has led to the region achieving World Heritage Site status.  There are many zones in the park, not all of them Wilderness.  Pristine Wilderness is defined as untouched by modern man, where humans are only visitors – areas with an intrinsic wild appearance and character.  The seven principles of Leave No Trace were explained with everyone agreeing to abide by them.  Meeting the legendary Bill Bainbridge was a highlight for many, Penz asked for his autograph.

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We learned that the Wilderness cause can be argued around four distinct themes:

  • experiential, the direct value of the Wilderness experience
  • the value of Wilderness as a scientific resource and environmental baseline
  • the symbolic and spiritual values of Wilderness to the nation and the world
  • the value of Wilderness as a commodity or place that generates direct or indirect economic benefits through ecosystem services.

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Back at Cobham in the late afternoon, everyone headed to the river and the hills to explore, crossing the swing bridge spanning the Pholela River. “I am so afraid of heights” said Gugu Zuma nervously, but on observing Zamile Mtambo conquer her fear and cross safely, she followed suit.

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Ayanda Lipheyana headed through the rocks to the plateau where the views were amazing. “We could see the farms in the distance on the one side, but on the other it was just wilderness with no manmade structures, only ecological infrastructure. I really liked that.”

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Penz explored the streams, searching for invertebrates under the rocks and splashing in the icy water. “I’m a rivers person” she said, “I am enjoying this cleansing ceremony in the pristine water. Back home the water is so filthy.”   Ayanda Lipheyana conducted a quick miniSASS and came up with a score of 9.8!  Swimming, floating and splashing was great fun, despite the chill.

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As night fell, a bonfire was lit and animated debates were fuelled by the flames. Discussions ranged from religion to vegetarianism and, of course, the state of the planet. Lindiwe Mkhize thoroughly enjoyed meeting other people, young and old, hearing their environmental ideas and learning about their lives.  “The arguments around the camp fire got me thinking, I can learn from those stories. Sitting around the fire was so good I wanted to stay there forever.”

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Not wanting to miss a moment of the magical star studded skies, some people snuggled down around the fire place to sleep in the open air. “I loved feeling safe here,” said Sanele Duma, “we couldn’t do this at home.”  Others lay on the swing bridge watching shooting stars with the river beneath them and the call of jackals echoing across the hills, before heading to bed.

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Everyone rose early the next beautiful morning in anticipation of the hike.  Organiser Philip Grant explained that we would carry no water, snacks or cameras today. “This is an awareness weekend – walk in silence as much as possible.  We want to you think about your needs, use all your senses and when you are thirsty search for water. We will explore the landscape as our ancestors did, without all modern conveniences.”

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Starting in the Low Use Zone of the Cobham Campsite, we headed towards the snow sprinkled mountains following well-marked paths, not carrying any water or snacks.  We saw all the different zones we had learnt about – buffer zones, low use zone and pristine and primitive wilderness.

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While some were disappointed not to be able to take cameras, Ayanda Kwhali agreed with the idea as it would help us focus on our surroundings rather than sharing everything on social media, an excuse to stop actually looking. Nathi Majola, a teacher, was pleased to be able to put the previous day’s learning into practice – moving from theory to experiential learning.

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A Bearded Vulture swooped low over the rocks. One of only 400 left in the wild – their numbers decimated by lack of suitable habitat, through poisonings and collisions or electrocutions with power lines, wind farms and traditional medicine.  The hike leaders were very knowledgeable. They were able to answer questions to ensure that everything made sense in terms of environmental challenges, animals and plants.

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In awe we observed herds of Eland, iMpofu, the antelope sacred to the Bushmen or San people who lived in harmony with nature in the area before colonisation by Nguni and European settlers.  Sanele told us proudly “My forefathers were here, I have Khoisan ancestors and now I am home.”  Ayanda Kwhali, who was visiting the Drakensberg for the very first time added “I walked on a path where the Bushmen used to walk‎ in ancient times. I felt like I was a Bushman when I was looking at the Eland and Baboons around me.” Gugu Zuma also loved this, although she was not sure about the baboons watching her as she took a toilet break (far from the path and streams as instructed)!

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We drank from the cold clear streams, marvelling at the taste of pure water. Refreshing and delicious.  This was the highlight for many participants – Penz Malinga in particular loved kneeling to drink as an animal would “siwaphuza ngomlomo.”

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For everyone, the opportunity to sit entirely alone for 30 minutes was a highlight.  A few people relaxed so much that they fell asleep, for others it was an emotional connection to the original people and animals of the area. “I will treasure the sound of the birds, the water and the wind, being in the forest was epic,” said Lindiwe Mkhize, wishing that there had been more opportunities for quiet over the weekend.

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We found rocks shaped like tortoises and another like a monkey, learned how the Escarpment was formed and explored the overhangs and caves in the sandstone. In one we found Rock Art and participated in conversations about the San people who had created the paintings.

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On the last day, thick mist rolled in making it too dangerous to hike.  We sat around the fire, sharing all the precious moments and the things that we felt could improve. With so many creative environmental educators in the group, there were plenty of suggestions on how to make the seminar section of the weekend more effective – with less lecture style teacher-centric methods, more interaction and challenging group activities.  Nkanyiso Ndlela thought there was too much good information to grab in just one day. “We can help create fun, interactive and more effective ways of delivering the Wilderness message,”  he offered, “It made me realize how essential good education in school and society is. I hope Wilderness Awareness Weekends continue, as it is possible to change one’s behaviour and that might lead to others taking responsible action towards our precious environment.”  Nkululeko Mdladla thought a short illustrative video that could also be shared on social media would be the best way to get the attention of young people.

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Lindiwe Mkhize loved that there was no network to get in touch with the outside world. Ayanda Lipheyana agreed that having no phone signal for four days was an amazing experience. “After the wilderness weekend I have started to look life in a different manner,” he said.

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After we all got aback to the unreal world and work, Antonia Mkhabela was astonished at the synchronicity of events.  “It is unbelievable that today at school we were visited by Sbusiso Velane – the first African who climbed Mount Everest. He came at the right time while I still feel the highs of the weekend in the mountains.  Sibusiso spoke how to accomplish what you would like in life and of the enjoyment one gets from being in nature.

I told the learners how safe I felt in the Maloti Drakensberg compared to my usual environment – I experienced peace, love, a sense of belonging, connection with mother earth and have strengthened my relationship with nature. I really enjoyed being surrounded by lovely young people who have the same passion for the environment as me. It is so exciting to hear and see them so involved in environmental sustainability projects. They have such great minds that will make our country a better place to live.”

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Hiking evolves beyond recreation. When we find it leads to call and clarity, hiking becomes meditation. And when bliss swells within us during communion with wilderness, we realise we are not just exploring the Earth but venturing into mystical terrain. We discover that our feet can take us as far as it is possible to go.

Quote from Kathy and Crag Copeland’s book Heading Outdoors Eventually Leads Within.

Funding for the MCG members to attend came from WAG, and N3TC through the Midlands Conservancies Forum Environmental Learning and Leadership Programme.

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.