Tag Archives: Mpophomeni Conservation Group

Learning is Easier When it is Fun!

Everyone knows that you learn better when you are having fun. The Mpophomeni Conservation Group also know that there are plenty of opportunities for learning and fun right on their doorstop.  As the youngsters headed back to school last week, they had lots of stories to share about the variety of holiday activities organised by the Mpop Kidz Club facilitators Ayanda Lipheyana and Tutu Zuma.

Whenever they suggest a fieldtrip to explore the uMthinzima Stream to do some miniSASS and turbidity tests, a small crowd of enthusiastic youngsters interested in acquiring more knowledge about the environment, arrives.

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Early in December the younger members of the club learned about river health and the water creatures that indicate good quality water. They headed to the uMthinzima stream for a practical session. There was a manhole spilling into the river, so it was too dangerous to get in the water to do a miniSASS, but they did test the water clarity – it was only 3cm!

We talked about how a miniSASS test works and practiced pronouncing all the difficult words. Samke, in Grade 3 was curious “Why don’t we take frogs and fishes into consideration when doing miniSASS?” she asked. Noxolo, in Grade 7 explained that we only use aquatic invertebrates for the survey because they are easy to catch. “Sisebenza ngezilwanyana ezingenawo umgogodla.”

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A few days later, a group returned to do some proper mini SASS tests working their way up the stream from the very polluted area behind the Municipal Offices. It was lovely warm day and although it started to rain before we were finished, everyone enjoyed themselves.

mpop kidz walk along uMthinzima stream

At the first site they found worms, crabs, bugs and damselflies- a dismal score of 4.25. Further upstream the score improved to 5.2.

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As we walked, we passed small forest patches and the children took the opportunity to discuss alien plants and indigenous forest.

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At the third site we found mayflies, damselflies, bugs or beetle and caddisflies. There were lot of stones and fast flowing bubbling water – the stream was largely natural – in a Good condition.

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At site four we found flatworm, crabs, other mayflies, damselflies, dragonflies, caddis flies and true flies, but the score dropped to 6.5.The water clarity test was 64.

mpop kidz umthinzima stream mini sass

Exploring Nguga Stream

A small group of high school kids trekked across to the Nguga Stream on Goble’s Farm opposite Mpophomeni just before Christmas. During the morning, four children who live nearby were watching us and we called them to join in.mpop streams mini sass 104

The first spot we did a miniSASS test was just below Midmar Crushers. We found flatworms, Minnow mayflies, Damselflies and true flies – a score of only score of 3.5. The turbidity score was high – 50cm. There was a short discussion about what could be the reason for a low MinSASS average score when the water clarity was good? Ayanda explained “The MiniSASS average score shows that the site is in very poor condition and the water clarity score shows that the river condition is not that bad. Better water clarity does not mean water is in natural condition. If we can do MiniSASS in water that we drink from the tap. We will find no insect and the MiniSASS score will be zero while the water clarity is 100cm.” Asanda thought it was possible that at Midmar Crushers release some chemicals in the stream that kills insects but does not affect water clarity.

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Our next site was 100m downstream from the first. The MiniSASS average score improved to 4.25, but the water clarity test decreased from 50cm to 31cm. We noticed that between site1 and site 2 people were washing, children were swimming and cattle passing through the stream.mpop streams mini sass 147

Another 200m downstream we did another water clarity test and we got only 17cm! The site is spot where the surrounding community dump their rubbish. The manager of the area, Doug who joined us, said people are dumping rubbish in the stream because the Municipality does not collect rubbish for Nguga community. He suggested we start a petition and forward it to the counsellors or municipality authorities.

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As we walked we saw 2 dead goats in the stream and a leaking manhole. However, the sewage does not go straight into the stream, it spreads over the land and has formed a ‘sewage wetland’ near the stream. The MiniSASS test we conducted here was 3.8 and the water clarity has improved to 31cm We thought that the leaking manhole was not affecting the stream that much.mpop Nguga stream stream mini sass

Everyone enjoyed exploring a new stream and had fun making things from the clay on the banks.

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Exploring Nguga Forest

Early in January the MCG trailed across to the forested area near Nguga stream to learn about trees.

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In groups they identified 12 indigenous species and discussed the functions of each tree using the Sharenet Forest Community Handbook.

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They repeated the exercise in a plantation nearby and found only five species.

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They surprised a group of kids swimming in the stream! Eish, it was HOT!

kids swimming in nguga

Learners were given the pictures of a puzzle of environmental issues around rivers that they had to fix.  They gave feedback on what is wrong and how they did fix it.

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Nomfundo Mlotshwa said “I enjoyed myself today, it was great. I learned a lot of new things about gum trees and that there are many different species in an indigenous forest. In the indigenous forest there is more shade and the plants that grow there help one another to survive.”

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From the forest to the grassland – our next outing was up the hills that surround Mpophomeni to conduct a grassland study. We wanted to compare the grasses at the top of the hill and at the bottom. We were hoping to find more species at the top.

As we walked, participants remembered other times they had been up the hills. Bulelani Ngobese remembered that way back in 2009 he left his red cap on top while having a picnic and wondered if he would find it again!

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On top each group collected different species of grasses within a 9 metre square area for 15 minutes, then spent time identifying the different species using the Grasses of SA guide.

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We found 15 species of grasses but couldn’t identify all the species. We did identify thatching grass, red grass, brown needle grass, bristle grass and spear grass and discusses the functions of grasses and whether or not each species was palatable to cattle.

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We had a picnic of apples, eggs and fresh, cold water before heading back down the hill. At the bottom in the disturbed area we only managed to find 7 species of grass.

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Everyone really enjoyed the excursion. Phelelani Sibiya said “Sihambile kakhulu safunda.Sahlukanisa izinhlobo zotshani esizitholile saphinde sadla sasutha saqeda sahamba.” Tharibo Zondi added “Osukwini lanamhlanje sifunde lukhulu bengingazi ukuthi utshani buhlekene,sengizokwazi ukufundisa abanye abantu uma sibambisane singenza okugcono.”

We were all happy to conclude that our assumption was correct – we did find more species at the top of the mountain than at the bottom of the mountain.

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Tutu commented “The views were amazing, most of the kids had never been up here before. they could not believe how beautiful Mpophomeni looks from so high up.”

Children from Ethembeni Family Centre are keen to adopt part of the uMthinzima stream that is only 50m away, to keep the banks free of litter and monitor the condition of the water. The purpose of this excursion was to introduce the 22 kids and 4 adults to mini SASS.

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We walked from Mpophomeni Library to uMthunzima stream behind the Municipality offices near the sewage pumping station to do the first test. We found flatworm, redworm, damselflies, bugs, beetles and snails, the river is in very poor condition. The water clarity was only 9.00cm.

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It took about an hour to walk to the second site. Along the way we saw some indigenous trees. 10 year old, Anele Mgadi said”Ngiyasikhumbula lesi sihlahla umama wethu uSofe usake waifundisa ngaso e-centre.”   Then she thought for a while and said “umlahlankosi usetshenziselwa amadlozi.” Ziziphus mucronata or Buffalo Thorn.

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At the second site young John observed that the river condition was improving. We found caddisflies, true flies, damselfies, other mayflies, damselfies, minor mayflies, crabs and flatworm and our score was 5.7. The water clarity was 35cm

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The kids made notes about all that the found –

We should make sure that we keep the manholes clean so that we can drink clean water. We found a leaking stamkoko 3 years siqalile so that means 3 years makaka engena emanzini! We do not to have throw rubbish in the river, we can make many things with rubbish by recycling. We found some stones, we found some small insect living under small stones. Sabona isitamukoko sokugcina esingena emanzini uma ufuna ubhukuda. Bhukuda ngenhla kwaso not ngenzansi.

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We walked along the banks for another two hours passing some children swimming. In the clean clear water Nhlaka found a stonefly! “Look what I found. I found a big one.” He shouted, with no idea how exciting his find was. Our miniSASS score here was 9.

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Ayanda concludes “This was the one of best young groups I have had so far. They were all active and participating. We all had fine time and experienced new things together.”

For the very last excursion of the holidays, the kids asked if they could walk along the uMthinzima again to the top where the water is clean. 38 youngsters aged 8 to 19 and four adults joined in the river walk! They will be monitoring the stream at once a month and conducting regular clean-ups along the banks of the stream.

mpop kidz jan 108As expected, the river behind Municipal offices near the sewage pumping station gave us a very low score of 3.8. The water clarity was 6cm.

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We walked for the next three hours, not dawdling too much as the kids were keen to swim in the clean water at the top. We passed some other kids swimming along the way.

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Near the source of the stream, where it is natural condition, we found crabs, flatworm, snail, dragonfly, other mayflies, damselfly, bugs and beetle and caddisflies – a super score of 8. The water clarity was an amazing 97cm – what a difference from only 6cm further down! Everyone was happy to see clean water in uMthunzima stream and had fun exploring and splashing.mpop kidz jan 185

We explored the forested area on each side of the stream. It was lovely and cool.

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To conclude the day we used a picture building game. On one side the river is polluted while on the other side was in natural condition. All the kids were given different coloured crabs. Red crab (no life or poor condition), green crab (natural condition), purple crab (poor condition) and had to put the crabs into the poster where they think they belong.

Nosipho Mchunu, in Grade 6 loved the walk. “I have never been up here before, it was so beautiful, I loved it.”

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Tutu Zuma, MCG facilitator “We had a great day and hopefully the kids did learn new things.”

Now that’s a lot of lekker, local holiday activities! Thank you N3TC for supporting the Mpop Kidz Club.

Soil, Air, Water

Mpop Kidz Club headed across the road recently to a different world – Thurlow Reserve on the banks of Midmar Dam. Tutu Zuma, Kidz Club facilitator said “They were so excited to have a trip outside of Mpophomeni and especially to see zebras and different buck. It was not hard to organise, and transport was cheap. Everyone should learn about the wonderful local things instead of going to Durban and other places.”

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While fun was high on the agenda, facilitator Ayanda Lipheyana was not going to miss the chance for a few lessons. He divided the 38 youngsters into three groups – Soil, Air and Water. Each group had to do some research on each abiotic component that is the basis for all life. Why do they think that these things are important for humans and what affect do humans have on each component?

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Each group did a MiniSASS and water clarity test using the turbidity tube on the banks of the dam. There were not many invertebrates because water levels are low and there are no stones or vegetation on the edges of the dam.   The MiniSASS Average score was 5.5. The water clarity score ranged between 45-53.

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During the feedback, many different points were raised and it became clear that humans are completely dependent on Soil, Air and Water. Zama said water is the source of life because we cook using water and we drink water – “amanzi ayimpilo ngoba siyapheka ngawe futhi siyawaphuza”. Palesa said water is the habitat for the aquatic animals. Noxolo said we need air to breath and plants need air to grow. Samke said on behalf of the soil “People make bricks out of me and they build houses using me.” Zama added “Without soil there will be no food.” Ndalo, also talking about soil, said “Soil very important because people use it as sunscreen when it is hot.”

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Ayanda asked some interesting questions like: How long can a person live without breathing? Thando guessed four hours. Ayanda asked all the kids to close their mouths and noses for one minute – no one managed even 30 seconds!  Humans can survive a maximum of four minutes without breathing, live a maximum of four days without water and live for two months without having food.

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Ayanda built a pyramid to illustrate this. The bottom row has soil, air and water, with plants and animals balanced on top of them and then the top level for humans. The hierarchy shows that humans depend on everything in the bottom and middle tiers. Everyone understood the importance of conserving what we have because when one of the bottom tier was removed, humans fell down along with the animals and plants.

r Mpop Kidz Thurlow soil air water

Everyone enjoyed having lots of space to play soccer, throw balls and skip with the skipping rope they had made using discarded bread bags.

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Tutu showed everyone how to make Christmas cards using old magazines and everyone made one to take home for their family and friends.

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Sitting on the banks of the dam enjoying a picnic, the children were astonished to see that the dam had waves. “They felt as if they were at the sea!” laughed Tutu.   It was a long, productive and very happy day. Ayanda concluded “These kids were so energetic and amazing, they made my day. I love these kids.” 

Thank you N3TC for funding all the Mpop Kidz Club activities this year and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for waiving the entrance fee to Thurlow for this excursion.

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Every Home Must Have a Garden

“Every home must have a garden” declares Ntombenhle Mtambo passionately.

Not content with turning her tiny back yard into a food forest, Ntombenhle has been pestering the uMngeni Municipality for the past 8 years to allow her to use a vacant plot, which Mpophomeni residents have been using as a dumping site, for a food garden.

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“This is so important,” she says, “Everyone should have the ability to afford a healthy lifestyle. In this garden we will share skills and teach people to recycle all the things they think are waste.”

r barrowfull of plastic waste

The Mpophomeni Conservation Group has set about creating this community garden with great gusto. Watch this short video of the original dream: https://vimeo.com/92513329

Volunteers began a few months ago, clearing the rubbish from the site – eish, so much buried plastic and chunks of concrete!

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Neighbour, Bonokwakhe Madlala brought them all gloves when he noticed they were working with bare hands.

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Then Hilton and Howick Rotary, who share Ntombenhle’s vision, erected a fence to keep the goats and chickens out.

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A fence is absolutely essential if you want to grow food in a township where livestock roams freely.

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Thandi Sheleme who runs the crèche next door to the garden is terribly excited and keen to start a garden on her side of the new fence too.

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Paul Duncan of Dovehouse helped draw up a plan based on permaculture principles. Zane Mnchunu of MIDI, who are delighted to be associated with the MCG garden commented Paul’s a magician, I’m convinced! What a man. Well done guys. Garden is looking good.

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Quick as a flash, swales were dug to harvest the rain and beds were made.

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Ntombenhle and Tutu have been planting seeds at Qhamukile School nearby, so were able to collect lots of seedlings for the new garden from there – including onions, spinach and comfrey.

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Barend Booysen brought bags of manure and mulch and some Vepris lanceolata trees.  “I am blown away by what is happening here. I can see a big future for this project.” he said, “I will be drop by with more whenever I am in the area.”

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Alex March of Nkosi Nursery delivered indigenous trees and shrubs for windbreaks, shade, medicine and wildlife including Ouhout, Celtis, Buddleja, lots of aloes, Artemesia, Rhus lanceolata, Freylinia.  He donated a whole bunch too.

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Fortunately, the rain arrived soon after, so digging holes was not too much of a challenge and planting commenced with gusto.

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The small stream that runs through the site is ideal for watering everything.  The water is clean and fresh. Plans are afoot to plant arums and incema in the waterlogged areas.

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Margie Pretorius visited the fledgling garden, was terribly impressed and sponsored a whole lot of fruit trees, herbs, seeds and seedlings.

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Ntombenhle popped into Hopewells to stock up – Peppers, Brinjals, Beetroot and Kale seedlings and seeds of nasturtium, coriander, courgette, beans, sunflowers, carrots, parsley and fennel.

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Every day as the volunteers clear and dig, people stop by to chat about the project. Ntombenhle says “A guy from the municipality stopped by too. He was speechless. They made us wait so long for permission to create this garden. Now they can see for themselves what we can do.”

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Mrs Mncube who owns the Tuck Shop across the road brings over trays of tea and sandwiches to keep them going.

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N3TC have sponsored some inspiring learning for the group – to Enaleni Agro-Ecological Farm to learn to bake bread and make fruit cordials, and to the Khula Shanti Food Garden to discover pea pyramids, chicken tractors and the importance of rocks in the garden.

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Ntombenhle concludes “This piece of land is going to bring lots of fun, unity in the community, new skills and challenges. I can see a bright future if the community roll up their sleeves and learn to make money out of waste and gardening.”

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Come and see for yourself what is happening on the corner of Mhlongo and Stadium Roads in Mpophomeni. Or like them on facebook.com/MpopConserve

Clearing out your garage this holiday?  Ntombenhle will be very grateful for used roofing and poles to create a shelter, pieces of shade cloth, wire, trellis, watering cans, garden tools. They do need as much mulch (hay) and manure as they can get their hands on – so if you are clearing out the stables too…..  She is quite determined not to spend any money on these items and rather make use of/recycle things other people no longer need.  Contact her on 071 916 2550.

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uMthunzima miniSASS Surprise

Last month, the Mpophomeni Conservation Group invited youngsters to learn about the indigenous forest patches in the area and compare them to man made plantations. Discussions amongst the students around the issues of Alien vs Indigenous were vigorous. Nomfundo Mlotshwa was curious to know why people still planted invasive species which use so much water.  “To make all the furniture – like our school desks.  iHlahla zesizulu zikhula zibe nestem esincane. Indigenous trees grow too slow.” Asanda Ngubane replied.

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They wandered up the valley along the stream in search of interesting trees, and to their horror, observed five overflowing manholes polluting the river and six dumping sites close to the bank. “I am worried that the rubbish will wash into the river when it rains” said Lineth Mbambo.

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Much of the river that they walked beside appeared to be in a very poor condition.

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Once they got beyond the mass of houses, they were pleased to discover the river in a much better state. They explored a little and determined right away to return and do miniSASS tests along the length of the uMthunzima which flows directly into Midmar.

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Then a couple of weeks ago, ten enthusiastic learners turned up on a cold and rainy day to explore more. Ayanda Lipheyana (MCG facilitator) helped them make raincoats out of refuse bags to ward of the worst of the wet. They did four miniSASS tests in four different sites. Ayanda reports:

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We named our sites 1, 2, 3 and 4. Before we started Sihle Ngcobo asked “What is miniSASS? I saw the word in your invitation SMS and went to the dictionary but unfortunately I didn’t get the definition.”  I explained  what it is and why it is important to monitor streams in order to understand changes to the stream.

At Sites 2 and 3 we did miniSASS together. Kids were separated into 2 groups to do miniSASS at site 1 and 4.  Site 1 is lower down the stream and site 4 is up the uMthunzima stream closest to the source. As we go up the stream kids noticed that the clarity of water improved and miniSASS score changed from bad to good.

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At site 1 the water clarity was good but the miniSASS score was 3.5 which is very bad. We thought it because there was not too much life. We only 4 invertebrates and there was no oxygen because water was moving slowly and there is raw sewage from the manhole entering the stream above.

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At site 2 the water clarity was good and the miniSASS score was better – 5.6. There was more life and no sewage coming into the stream but there was some human activities – like washing and an illegal dumping site.

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At site 3 the water clarity was very good. There was more life we found 5 invertebrates and score was 7.8 which means the river is in good condition.The water was bubbling over the stones, which meant there was oxygen in the water.  Here Asanda Ngubane found a stonefly!

Kids were so excited to see a stonefly for the first time. Philani Ngcobo said “I did not know about the stonefly.  I was so happy that I learnt something new, and that part of our river is clean and good for the animals that live there.”

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At site 4 the water clarity was the same as at the site 3 but the miniSASS score was only 5.6. We found 7 invertebrates. Water moving slowly, means low oxygen.  We are confused why we got so much difference between site 3 and site 4 because site 3 and 4 they are 15 meters away from each other and site 4 is further upstream than site 3.  We will return to these sites again.

We had fun and the kids plan to go back on a sunny day, do more test and compare results. Londeka said “It is a new information for us about aquatic invertebrates adaptations and it will help us in Life Science.”  I made it clear that we can only drink water from the stream where we found a stonefly and that if there are human activities upstream we can not drink that water.

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Earlier in October, MCG collected 46 bags of litter from the uMlanga Stream near where it flows under Mandela Drive. Ayanda phoned the Municipality to collect the rubbish and was pleased when they arrived a few hours later. Ayanda concludes: We chose this spot because it is visible. to encourage others who love their environment to volunteer to help.  People passing by appreciated the work we were doing.  One said “We must make you guys counsellors because it seems you love your area”.

46 bags collected clean up