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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Greg Hillyard is a Cape Town based professional photographer and local Education without Borders volunteer. Greg and EwB have developed a photography program designed to give at risk students a chance to find creative outlets through photography and visual media, while also connecting with the natural environment.

Recently Education without Borders and Greg organized a photography excursion into the surrounding Cape Town wilderness in association with a local NGO Educo. Below is a wonderful post from Greg about the event.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ewbcanada/sets/72157627721180918/

Amongst the clouds at Grootwinterhoek

By Greg Hillyard

We are truly blessed in the Western Cape with such a choice of awe inspiring destinations! In 2010 we were exploring the northern frontier on the banks of the Doring River whilst this year the lofty Grootwinterhoek reserve served as our photographic playground.

The reserve lies merely 120km from Cape Town and to the amazement of the students, Table Mountain can be seen far off in the distance. For more information on the reserve, go to the following links…

http://www.capenature.co.za/reserves.htm?reserve=Groot+Winterhoek+Wilderness+Area

and to locate the campsite…

http://g.co/maps/gtbpt

As with the previous year’s excursion, the reasons for choosing such a remote place were to show the students a completely new part of South Africa, so as to stimulate excitement, giving them the freedom to practice their photography in a beautiful and vast landscape, and of course give them a fond memory of their time in our care.

We set out from the Fezeka High at 2pm with a few delays but as the drive was not too far we were not stressed. The cameras were out and snapping, the voices rapping and soaring in song as we motored along, making our way towards a weekend of play. Mark Gamble of EDUCO had been complaining of a particularly hard week at the office and it was remarkable to see how the mirthful energy of the students totally moved him to a high state of enthusiasm and got his eyes sparkling once again.

One or two stops for petrol and supplies along the way and a few more delays for photographic opportunities saw the group trundle into the campsite. The sun was getting low and it was already cold at an altitude of one kilometre. With beanies on heads and jackets keeping us warm, we unpacked, started with supper and made a fire in the chalet whilst sorting out sleeping arrangements.

After wolfing down an impressive lamb stew, Mark assembled the group into a circle and led a very informative and clever check-in with all present. We were asked to be a traffic light and then give reasons for being a certain colour. Red if you were feeling bad, orange if you were ok but something was bothering you and green if you were super happy. We thankfully discovered through the one red that Asemahle had a serious tooth ache and we were able to administer pain killers so she could at least get a good night’s rest.

The rest of the evening was a blur of some very raucous singing and dancing. We have five budding thespians in the group and all were in full flight with the rest of the class joining in with djembe drums, dance or song. Somewhere in the mayhem we were quietened with a prayer for a classmate who was absent due to the tragedy of losing her mother the night before. We sent love her way and at the same time acknowledged how lucky we all were to be alive and full of youthful energy. After the prayers we watched a BBC documentary on the making of the “Living Planet” series just to show how photography can be used to communicate and as a source of income.

Saturday dawned bright beautiful and crisp! We were in for a great day! After breakfast we applied sun-cream and sauntered off into the pristine veld for a few hours. It was a photographer’s delight and Mark and I both found many moments to laugh at the antics of the enthusiastic photographers. They were clambering on top of rock formations, inside rock formations and were often seen on their knees in the dirt capturing flowers and insects. We picnicked at a Palmiet surrounded pristine red water pond that few dared to swim in. It was freezing, far colder than any Clifton experience. We created some group shots and then headed back to camp for a well earned afternoon siesta.

The sunset was spectacular and for this we walked to a lookout point where one could spot Table Mountain far into the hazy distance. It was a vast and quiet space and the beauty of the syrup like light gave us all a great opportunity to create some amazing moody and creative photographs. One by one we found our reasons to tear ourselves away from the fading light of the sunset and head back down in the dark to the chalet where preparations for supper were underway.

After a healthy braai we proceeded to play a variety of games in a variety of languages around the fireplace, accompanied by some song and dance of course. In stark contrast to the night before, by eleven o’ clock most students had run out of energy and proceeded to their dreams. With those that still had some gas in the tank we went for a night walk and tried our hand at night photography which proved to be a lot of fun.

The final day was very relaxed, the environment and the energy spent had affected everyone and we took our time eating breakfast and packing up. To bid farewell we climbed a short yet demanding little mountain to get one last bird’s eye view of the landscape.

Once again I count myself lucky to have been a part of this experience and would like to add my thanks to Sikhumbuzo, from last years class, for his sense of responsibility, enthusiasm and helping me manage this group of energetic young people throughout the year. Mark Gamble from EDUCO is an amazing person who is dedicated to social upliftment and has an amazing gift in communicating with the youngsters. I hope we will create many great experiences together in the future.

Thank you Ruth, Cecil and all at EwB for your support.

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The SEED program at Fezeka is beginning to take root. This is a program funded by Education without Borders and focuses on bringing interactive environmental education to schools such as Fezeka. At Fezeka the SEED program has funded the school food garden as well as the school’s wind turbine, which provides clean electricity to the sciences lab.

As explained by Green Practice’s facilitator Bood Carver, the SEED program is now in its second year at Fezeka. It has helped connect local residents with farming culture, bringing not just students to the project, but also parents, unemployed residents, and elders. SEED’s success is that it not only teaches residents and students about where their food comes from, it also helps build a community around a public space. Public environs are often neglected in urban slums because residents do not have the means or incentives to develop such spaces. Without safe public spaces it is very difficult for residents to develop healthy learning communities.

Below is Bood Carver’s article to us. Feel free to read and comment on it. Who knows, perhaps you have some ideas that can be used to make the garden work even better!

Glen

Green Practice by facilitator Bood Carver

In the second year with SEED, Fezeka has really stood out. The caretakers are hardworking and there is a strong farming culture and practical awareness of the need to grow food here at this school. We are fortunate to have such dedicated staff here and some individuals are highly successful gardeners. We try and integrate and respect their techniques as much as possible and often they are included in lessons with learners. This has helped to build a collaborative and successful partnership with the school. The garden is beautifully designed and cared for. It is neat and highly productive. Learners are very interested in many aspects of the garden. Medicinal plants and remedies are a favorite topic, as is global warming and permaculture. It’s amazing to hear how knowledgeable the grade 10’s are on these topics, especially medicinal plants.

There is great community involvement at this school and we are regularly having conversations over the fence with community members. One unemployed father, Mfundo has asked to sit in on occasion in SEED lessons. Another old man often gives great gardening advice from across the fence when he’s walking past. The wind turbine and garden attracts attention to the school and

people feel free to interact spontaneously and often ask questions concerning the garden. We are keen and looking forward to expanding the food garden to produce more vegetables next term.

Highlights:

Great lessons on medicinal plants with great involvement from learners. There was great interest in common remedies, which are derived from plants that we had growing in the garden. Sam Freedom bought a small jar of “Miracle ointment”, made from Kooigoed, Comfrey, Rosemary and Lavender.

The new worm farm and banana spiral are amazing and functioning very well and we have been highly impressed with the size of the vegetables that are growing at this school!

FEZEKA PRIMARY

MITCHELLS PLAIN

Green Practice

Facilitator: Bood Carver

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Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest metropolis with an estimated population of 3.5 million. The city is also has one of the lowest population densities of any major urban centre in Africa, consequently leading to serious urban sprawl and transportation challenges.

Cape Town’s current transportation system is typical of most emerging economies. The city and surrounding suburbs are serviced by a vast and chaotic system of mini bus taxis, which cause heavy congestion on the roadway network and are often not properly maintained. There is also an aging rail network, known as Metrorail, which offers overcrowded rail services. Neither of these systems are particularly attractive transportation options, which explains why Cape Town’s road network is increasingly congested with private automobiles.

South Africa is in the process of modernizing its public transportation system. This initiative was undertaken as part of the 2010 World Cup, and now is being ramped up to include a $14 billion upgrade of the railway stock in the country. The rail deal is currently up to tender, and Bombardier is hoping to leverage its Gaugteng train success story, but is faced with stiff competition from European and Chinese bidders. Once the rail modernization has been completed, the public will have access to new trains and better security at stations and on the trains, an issue that has long been a concern for commuters and in particular women.

The public transport upgrade also includes the construction of Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) bus service. This IRT bus service will connect with existing minibus and Metrorail networks at specified hubs. The idea behind the IRT bus service is to make as much use of existing road and rail infrastructure so as to reduce the capital cost of the transit upgrade. Unlike traditional bus services, rapid buses in the IRT network will be separate from regular highway traffic, which means they will not be affected by traffic congestion on the roadways; this will ensure secure high-speed service. Furthermore, the rapid transit system is designed to only stop at secure designated stations, or transit hubs.

It is hoped all of these factors will encourage more Capetonians to switch from their automobiles to transit, thus reducing traffic congestion and stress on existing road network.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town

http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/irt/Pages/default.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrorail_Western_Cape

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-news/african-and-mideast/bombardier-making-tracks-in-south-africa/article2056519/

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As the world sets to turn its eyes on South Africa later this year for the UN Conference on Climate Change that will take place in Durban, South Africa is in the process of implementing its own commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as part of an effort by the country to reduce total emissions by 34% by 2020 and green up its smokey image.

Despite having a smaller economy, South Africa is a significant emitter of carbon per capita, surprisingly producing more than China and almost as much (8.8 tons versus 8.9 tons) as the United Kingdom. As shocking as this statistic may be, it is of no surprise if one considers that over 90% of South Africa’s energy is generate by coal powered plants – the dirtiest form of energy available.

A plan by SA energy developers to push through the development of as many as 88 new wind farms with a total of 2800 turbines in the Western Cape is being met by serious opposition, who claim the turbines will change the landscape and do not want them in their backyards. Yet with South Africa’s economic growth and increased population, the energy needs of the country continue unmet, and there is no option for ESKOM (SA’s national energy provider) to adopt wind turbine generated electricity as part of a global strategy to reduce carbon outputs while also increasing energy production.

South Africans are well aware of the country’ energy crisis, having lived through periods of highly disruptive rolling electricity blackouts over the past five years. These blackouts have cost the country significant economic growth and forced many South Africans to re-evaluate their energy habits and find innovative solutions.  At the Fezeka School, where Education without Borders is heavily involved, some 30 students, with the assistance of local organizations, assembled a small wind turbine from scrap and recycled materials. The turbine provides all of the electrical needs for the science room in the school, and forms an integral part in the schools science curriculum. Not only does the windmill provide free energy for the school, it also generates an interest in the practical importance of science, engineering, and energy conservation. The windmill installed in the school’s community garden and forms part of a more comprehensive environmental education program.

With all the controversy of giant windmill turbines and the spectre of further electricity blackouts, it appears the students at Fezeka School have shown that small and ingenious solutions provide a practical and less invasive means meeting energy needs.
Indeed, the answer is blowing in the wind.

References

i. http://www.cop17durban.com/Pages/default.aspx
ii. http://www.simplygreen.co.za/local-stories/earth-and-animals/sa-pleased-with-progress-at-climate-change-talks.html
iii. http://www.capetimes.co.za/88-wind-farms-mooted-in-province-1.1083801
iv. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/world/africa/31safrica.html
v. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yitxrpfRFY&feature=player_embedded

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