Mpophomeni Conservation Group members have organised and participated in many different activities this past week – ranging from exploring the forests of Zululand, hosting visitors to the township, stroking snakes and flying high to see where Mpophomeni fits into the Midlands Water Catchment.
CREW ANNUAL WORKSHOP
Ayanda Lipheyana and Lindiwe Mkhize represented Mpophomeni Conservation Group at the Annual CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildplants) Workshop in Eshowe from 30 August to 2 September along with other Midlands CREW members, Peter Warren, Alex March and Nikki Brighton.
Ayanda reports: The workshop was attended by CREW groups from different provinces and university students from UKZN, UniZulu and Limpopo. It was very exciting and wonderful to meet all these new people who care about plants. The speakers were experienced and the presentations interesting. The first presentation was on taxonomy based on Kniphofia identification and the use of keys to find the species of the family. Professor Braam van Wyk presented on the evolution of the Maputaland plants, talked about BioGeography and suggested reasons like temperature and underlying rock for the richness of species here – there are 230 endemic plants in the area. In another presentation Braam talked about Grassland Ecology which was so interesting.
Livhu Nkhuna from the Millenium Seedbank Project talked about seed collection and how we have to keep the seed safely so when plants are extinct in the wild they will be propagated. Many CREW groups reported back on their activities for the year, the Midlands CREW (very new group) has focussed on inspiring and educating people to make the group stronger. We learnt about ferns from Neil Crouch, geology from Mike Watkeys, the importance of Herbarium specimens with Mkipheni Mgwenya, Alien species with Reshnee Lalla and the Pondoland paraecologist project from Sinegugu Zukulu.
We had a field trip to the Dlinza forest where we saw blue duiker and learnt so much about the trees and plants. The Philenoptera (Milettia) sutherlandia trees were very impressive and the Strangler Figs. The Boardwalk was great, with an amazing view from above the canopy. Albizia was flowering below us. We saw hornbills, sunbirds, white eared barbet, grey Cuckooshrike and many more birds in the trees.
We also visited grasslands and forest at Entumeni Reserve. It was a great experience.
Lindiwe commented: “I am so very happy to have this opportunity. The CREW information was breathtaking for me, now I understand what CREW is all about. The speakers from all walks of life gave us so much information and the fieldtrips to the forest were much fun. I made unique friends from other places. Everything was super amazing!”
The Quarterly Roadshow meeting of the Midlands Conservancies Forum was hosted by Mpophomeni Conservation Group on 5 September. Visitors gathered at the library for a walk along the Mthinzima lead by Penz Malinga.
Mpophomeni was established in 1964. A large wetland surrounds the township and the name Mpophomeni comes from the sound of falling water.
The wetlands are severely degraded and the Mthinzima stream which runs through the township is impacted by massive pollution, in particular overflowing sewerage pipes, with the mini-sass score dropping from eight where the stream rises in the hills to zero at the road after the township.
Penz pointed out the issues with surcharging sewers and general degradation of the wetland. Litter and the smell of sewage was evident.
We enjoyed sightings of Lap-winged Plovers (listed as vulnerable), Longclaws and found a Sacred Ibis feather.
We headed back to the library meeting room for juice, fruit and the best vetkoek in the township prepared by Ntombenhle Mtambo. Ntombenhle welcomed the group and thanked MCF for their role in fundraising to support the dreams of the “hardworking women of the Mpophomeni“.
Presentations by MCF were followed by uMthobo Enviro Club who told of their concern for the state of the wetland and then Thandanani’s drama about the importance of taking care of our soil, air, water, plants and animals. Mark Graham from GroundTruth talked about the ability of polluted rivers to heal themselves (findings from the 2012 uMngeni River Walk) and introduced the soon to be launched online data collection website he has helped develop.
BATELEURS PROVIDE BIRDS EYE VIEW
After many months of anticipation, Asanda Ngubane and Bulelani Ngobese, founding members of the Mpophomeni Enviro Club (facilitated by MMAEP), woke early on Saturday 7 September in preparation for their flight with pilot Craig Wing to get a bird’s eye view of the township, healthy wetlands and local rivers. The Mpophomeni Enviro Club established by the Midlands Meander Education Project in 2008, funded by N3TC. Since its inception the focus has been on wetlands and water. Their friend Sihle was jolly envious of their adventure.
Asanda is a Grade 9 learner at Mpophomeni High whose favourite subject is Science. He has shown real commitment to the environmental cause championed by the Enviro Club over many years, attending regularly, participating quietly and diligently. He is determined to be a scientist when he finishes school – definitely more of a thinker than a talker. “We need the environment to be taken care of if we want our grandchildren to live a life that is super good like the old days. Now the world is facing eco problems, but if I can do something then the planet Earth will be the best place to live. By that I mean, I want us all to do something to ensure the planet is good for many years. Let us be the 21st Century that will be the ‘history for future life’ – we have to achieve that. We can if we work together and tell people why they should look after the wetlands and nature”.
Confident and well spoken, Bulelani also attends Mpophomeni High School. His favourite subject in Grade 11 is Life Sciences. After school Bulelani is determined to pursue a career in environmental justice. “It has been ten years since I started learning about the environment which surrounds us and the effect it has on our lives. Today in High School, nothing has changed my mind about my love for the environment and because of that I have decided to be an environmental lawyer. Yes, we don’t have a beautiful and healthy wetland in Mpophomeni but we are trying to take care of what we have. It would be amazing to get a view of other more healthy wetlands and rivers. It is always good to meet others and talk about the relationship between humans and the environment and know that the environment is the most important thing. I do believe that together we can do more.”
Penny Rees is an environmental activist and EIA specialist for DUCT Howick who is passionate about water and river health. In 2012 she led the 311km walk along the Mngeni River from the source at uMngeni Vlei to Blue Lagoon, documenting all impacts along the river. Her work has had a huge impact in the Midlands and the research has been included in the uMgungundlovu Strategic Environmental Assessment and other important documents. She was guide for the flight while at the same time checking out the route she plans to take for the Lion’s River walk later this month.
Bulelani wrote this about his experience: “My dream of flying came true today. As we took off we left all bad things and worries behind and flew over Mpophomeni, Midmar, Impendle, Howick Falls, Lion’s River and Inhlosane.
We saw more than 20 dams and Penny told us about the link between the dams. The most good thing was that we saw some of the healthy wetlands which are not damaged in any way by human activities and which can support wildlife like uMngeni Vlei.
We saw that human activities destroy and damage the environment and break the eco-systems.
Today I saw things in a much bigger picture and realised that things are not as we see them here on the ground. This was the best experience and if I were to write the history of my life this would be on top.”
Asanda was just as enthralled by the amazing adventure: “When you are in the air the places look like a puzzle. When we flew over Midmar, Penny told us that Midmar Dam feeds lots of paces with water and explained the difference between healthy and unhealthy rivers. Unhealthy ones have algae in them which is green. This is caused by sewage from the urban areas and dairy farms.
The most amazing thing which got my attention was that there is a Table Mountain which is not in Cape Town.
We got an aerial view of Howick Falls and also the new dam, Spring Grove which is not full yet. We were shown a crocodile farm but unfortunately did not spot a crocodile. We saw the source of the Mngeni river and the Karkloof falls, Albert’s Falls dam and Inanda dam, All of this was breathtaking. It made me realise that we must protect our environment.”
Penny concluded: “On my two previous visits to uMngeni Vlei – at the start of last years river walk, and earlier this year, we watched a Martial Eagle soaring above us and the vlei. I had the privilege yesterday to feel like that beautiful eagle, as I flew above the vlei in a tiny single engine, 4 seater plane, courtesy of the Bateleurs. Flying up from Maritzburg and following the river to the vlei, put everything into perspective as we sailed past stretches of the river that I recognised from May last year. On turning to head for Oribi airport, I was sad that this wonderful flight was nearly over, and there are no words sufficient enough to thank both the Bateleurs for donating this flight, and Craig Wing our pilot for an awesome time soaring with the eagles.”
Bateleurs is an organisation that “flies for the environment” – offering free flights to environmental organisations that could benefit from an aerial perspective. www.bateleurs.org The Midlands Conservancies Forum organised this opportunity for Penny, Bulelani and Asanda.
WOZA UZOFUNDA NGEZINYOKA
Pat McKrill, The Snake Man, is always a hit in Mpop. This was his second visit this year – organised by MCG and sponsored by N3TC. A crowd of excited kids gathered under the plane trees at Nokulunga Gumede Memorial as Pat unpacked his boxes.
He explained clearly where snakes live, what they like to eat and how they do not want to harm humans except if provoked.
With interpretation by Tutu, Lindiwe and Ntombenhle everyone learnt that when they see a snake the best thing to do is Stop and Stand Still.
There was lots of interest in touching a snake although sitting still while one slithered under your legs was pretty challenging!
Pat unpacked a cornsnake and a very beautiful big boa constrictor.
Passersby stopped to see what all the excitement was about.
Mpophomeni Conservation Group certainly are the change they want to see! 170 people belong to their Facebook group and they are about to launch into Twitter as well. Join their group on Facebook – Mpophomeni Hills – and help spread their environmental message.