So far I have managed to grow peppadews, chillies, coriander, spring onion, chives, strawberries, blueberries, rocket, spinach, swiss chard, sweet basil and basil — and I intend doing more!
But with every garden there are challenges and in my home we faced a big one in 2019/2020. For some reason all my plants decided not to grow and I tried to trace what the culprit could be and discovered it was the weather which was way too erratic. It was the saddest sight for me to see my beautiful plants not being able to be as lively as they used to be. When I began chatting to another friend of mine who loves gardening, and gave me some offcuts to help grow my garden, he said that at the same time my plants were doing this, so was his. But to my surprise, lo and behold, they began bearing their delicious fruits recently and I’m finally back in my kitchen burning up a storm when I cook with my chillies and can’t wait to pickle my peppadews!
One of my favourite quotes is by biologist and author Rachel Carson which says: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
So find your balance and find your passion and let nature take her time to do what she does best.
Food Documentary by Mycelium member Jacqueline van Meygaarden
“Food security means having access to healthy, organic nutritious food. That is why I’m doing what I do – I get to provide my community, my family and my household with that,” says Nomonde Buthelezi, urban farmer in Mfuleni on the Cape Flats, Cape Town.
During the COVID-19 hard lockdown in 2020, millions of South African experienced some of the toughest months in accessing food. Many questions have been raised about our food system, and how it can be changed and improved.
The current system of food production based on big-profit-driven agriculture, has contributed to hunger, a decrease in the nutritional value of food that is available and affordable to large sections of the population. The system does not work. What would it look like if we prioritised a people-centred model of placing food distribution around rights and needs, health and wellbeing?
We were invited to produce a documentary that attempts to answer this question. Our team explored how urban small scale farmers in the Cape Town area are an important part of shifting the food system in South Africa to a more just and equitable one.
’Farm to Fork’ is an episode in the 10-part series on the South African Food Crisis. The series, produced by the Human Rights Media Trust, with support from the Heinrich Boell Foundation illustrates the flaws of the South African food system exposed through the COVID 19 pandemic.
Farm to Fork, directed by Jacqueline van Meygaarden, and filmed by Mycelium members, Natalie Nolte and Lara Taylor, goes to Gugulethu and Ocean View, where we learn from two community led small scale farming groups about the possibility of using food local production to build community resilience.
Access the short documentaries here.
Mycelium member Lara Taylor celebrates Zeekoeivlei Estuary
Who knew that pondweed, algal blooms, coral worm and sand banks could be so fascinating! My journey with the Zandvlei Estuary Management team and the Zandvlei Trust, was just that. Last year, I was invited by IOI-SA (International Ocean Institute, Southern Africa) to produce an educational video about the management of the Zandvlei Estuary. This took me from the mouth of the vlei in Muizenberg – where we watched the earth movers dig away the sand banks to allow the river to flow; to the bird hides at Park Island in Marina Da Gama and the Zandvlei Conservation areas in the north. I saw amazing bird life as well as an abundance of fish including sand sharks.
I learnt about the history of the vlei, why it was formed and the consequences of canalizing. The Vlei attracts people for so many reasons including kayaking, yachting, fishing, bird watching, walking and playing along its banks.
The beautiful suburb of Marina da Gama holds water channels and spaces for lots of boating fun while the parks and reserves between are used by adults and children alike. There are however, problems caused by the creation of the vlei, such as too much pondweed, a change and depletion of animal and plant life as well as pollution but by and large the Zandvlei Estuary management team keep a check on this as well as salinity, oxygen and pollution levels to make sure that all is kept in order.
This video will be used to improve management of our coastal and freshwater resources, through education and training of government officials. An enlightening experience, with a great team to back me up!
South Africa Launches Green Bond for Climate Change
The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) has launched a R3,6 billion green bond to finance climate change initiatives throughout the country. Established through a private placement with the French Development Agency, the loan is intended to contribute to South Africa’s climate change mitigation efforts.
The loan is aligned with the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement program, intended to boost domestic renewable energy investment and production, and will help fast-track sustainable and climate-friendly projects. “The bond will be structured in accordance with the Bank’s recently published Green Bond Framework, which reiterates the DBSA’s commitment to playing a role in the just transition to a low-carbon economy,” said the DBSA in a statement. “The framework is aligned with the International Capital Markets Association Green Bond Principles.”
The DBSA is accredited with the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund (GCF), which made R846 million available to Southern African countries for the financing of climate projects in 2019. “In partnership with the GCF, the DBSA has implemented large-scale programs that support the transition to a low-carbon economy, including the Climate Finance Facility, a lending facility set up to encourage private sector investment in climate-related projects in Southern Africa, and the Embedded Generation Investment Program, a support facility for integrated renewable energy project in South Africa,” stated GBSA.
Legal protection for South Africa’s strategic water source areas
Ten percent of South Africa’s land area, mostly in the high mountain catchments along the eastern escarpment, generates 50% of the volume of water in all our river systems. This was identified in a substantial research document produced in 2013 by WWF-SA, the Water Research Commission and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, which identified 22 strategic water source areas (SWSAs) in South Africa.
From 2016, a WWF Nedbank Green Trust-funded project set about obtaining legislative protection for the SWSAs. From this catalytic funding, the project has expanded significantly, with progress made in terms of policy being put in place for the legal protection of water, and legislation gathering momentum. While the concept of SWSAs is well established in South Africa, until now they have never been properly recognised and included in legislation.
“Our goal is to protect these areas with whatever legal mechanisms are open to us,” says Samir Randera-Rees, Programme Manager of WWF-SA’s Water Source Areas Programme. “We asked the Centre for Environmental Rights to do a full review of all of South Africa’s water legislation. The review established that, while there is some mention of SWSAs in the legislation, they were not afforded much legal protection at all. However, existing clauses could be used, particularly under the National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998, clause 24 (2A). Under this clause, we saw the opportunity to have SWSAs declared environmentally sensitive areas. We have been working with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, the Department of Water and Sanitation and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to achieve this,” explains Randera-Rees.
Important headway has been made. In 2020, the SWSAs were recognised as an essential part of South Africa’s water security in the draft National Water Security Framework, and the SWSAs have been prioritised in the five-year action plans of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy. She has created a directorate to drive the protection of 11 of the 22 SWSAs by 2025.
WWF is one of the few organisations working explicitly towards SWSA protection, alongside key partners such as SANBI. Randera-Rees says the WWF participates in many important water forums and has driven the mandate for SWSAs to be legislated over many years. “It is the drum we continuously beat, and while we don’t claim to be the sole driver of this, we have held the space very effectively and driven the mandate. We take pride in the fact that this is gaining traction.”
Water-stressed South Africa faces several major threats to its SWSAs, including:
- Mining, particularly coal mining.
- Malfunctioning wastewater treatment works.
- Industrial pollution and human effluent in our rivers.
- Land degradation and soil erosion from poor farming practices, water pollution and agricultural runoff from piggeries, and dairies and fertilisers – with nitrates and phosphates entering our river systems and causing eutrophication and algal bloom.
- Invasive alien vegetation, such as pine, eucalyptus and black wattle trees, which are consuming between 3% and 7% of the country’s water resources; and
- Unmanaged forestry. This reduces streamflow, as plantations have deep root systems that significantly reduce the amount of water coming out of the WSAs.
All initiatives around SWSAs and environmentally sensitive areas are aligned with other WWF-SA and WWF Nedbank Green Trust programmes, such as the biodiversity stewardship initiative to legally proclaim privately or community-owned land as protected environments and nature reserves. “They go hand in hand,” says Randera-Rees. In the Enkangala Drakensberg, for example, abandoned coal mines are leaching acid water into this SWSA, polluting water at the source. The proclamation of protected environments here helps to prevent the granting of prospecting or mining licences in SWSAs where the risk to South Africa’s water supply is too great.
How we manage our water at every level is not something that can be put off. It is imperative to protect our country’s key water source areas and all forms of water supply, and it is the business of every South African to support this.
Collaborator of the Month: Cape Town Urban Farmer Research Club
Our collaborators of the month are the research team around Nicole Paganini from Humboldt University Berlin and Nomonde Buthelezi from the Cape Town Urban Farmer Research Club. The two started a collaborative research project together with postgraduate students, Heinrich Böll Foundation with Keren Ben-Zeev, Solidaridad with Karin Kleinbooi, a group of food system actors in the Cape Flats and fisherfolk up West Coast. The project is advised by Prof Jane Battersby from UCT.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team have been collecting stories on food insecurity and hunger. These were digitally shared and some of the video content formed part of the Mycelium ‘Farm to Fork’ episode.
The rising food poverty shows the long overdue need to re-think systems in relation to food. Food is showing an increased presence in politics and media and there is a growing cross-sectoral communication and cooperation that has emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis revealed tremendous civic engagement, and mobilised energy and resources for collaboration. It brought people together and into conversations that would not have happened without the pandemic. This has fundamentally changed the way people understand their right to food and the importance of addressing challenges related to food.
“It was hammered to us, from my mother, from my community. It was echoed, from everyone. Your hunger must not be written in your face. Your poverty must never be showing. My mother raised us in the sense, if you don’t have it, we must accept it until the next paycheck. Having to go next door shows your poorness, you only ask close relatives and rather go to bed hungry. Poor people were teased. My mother was working for a family and brought food with, left-overs, and you get teased for that because you cannot afford your own. They call it eating the scraps from the white person’s dinner table.” Food activist, Cape Flats
The sharing of stories is a powerful communication tool and helps to unfold the individual stories behind the food security statistics. This research project has a strong emphasis on providing space to unpack what it means to go hungry. The co-researchers are fisherwomen, urban farmers, community kitchen chefs, spaza owners and experts in their local food system. In the facilitated process, researchers and food systems actors’ dive into a learning journey in which these stories are understood within the broader context. On a micro level, sharing stories is used to engage within communities and understand that food security is instead a systemic problem. The team used different tools such as collaborative mapping, photography and household surveys to generate a rich data set.
To diarise: World Wildlife Day
World Wildlife Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2013. As many as 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas around the world. They rely on the ecosystem services provided by forests and forest species to meet their essential needs. On Wednesday, March 3, tune in at 8h EST / 14h CET for the first-ever virtual World Wildlife Day event! We will celebrate the experiences of Indigenous Peoples and local communities whose livelihoods rely on forest ecosystems and wildlife: https://www.youtube.com/user/WorldWildlifeDay/live
To diarise: The Climate Story Fund
Are you working on a climate media project? Doc Society has launched The Climate Story Fund! Looking to support 6-8 projects from across the globe the fund is offering between $20,000- $100,000 per project, to be used against production costs and associated impact campaigns for projects ready to launch in 2021. Selected groups will also take part in an impact lab to assist them in developing their campaigns. Deadline for submissions is 4 March 2021. Full information can be found here: https://docsociety.org/climate-story/
To diarise: World Water Day 2021
On 22 March, 2021, World Water Day will be celebrated in an online event. The World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis, and a core focus of the observance is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. The theme of World Water Day 2021 is valuing water. The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. SDG 6 is to ensure water and sanitation for all. Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone. Check out the agenda and register!
To diarise: Earth Hour
Started by WWF and partners as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment. Held every year on the last Saturday of March, Earth Hour engages millions of people in more than 180 countries and territories, switching off their lights to show support for our planet.
But Earth Hour goes far beyond the symbolic action of switching off – it has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action. This year features a new “virtual spotlight” to create the same unmissable sight online, so that the world sees our planet, the issues we face, and our place within it, in a new light. On the night of Earth Hour (March 27), Earth Hour will post a must-watch video on all their social media pages – and all you have to do is share it.
Environmental change may have played a role at the dawn of Egyptian history
Around 5,000 years ago (c. 3100 BC), what we know today as Ancient Egypt came into existence. Why did we stop living in smaller communities and come together into cities and “civilisations”? In trying to answer this perennial question, archaeologists and anthropologists have historically studied the emergence of social stratification, notions of kingship, shifting identities, changing technologies, and much else. However, these studies – while looking in detail at these “human factors” – have arguably overlooked the changing environment within which the people were interacting, just at the crucial juncture. It is almost as if we have been so focused on the “actors” of the narrative, we have missed the “stage.” The Conversation
A bleak future: Young people and a dialogue about the climate crisis
Daily Maverick’s Our Burning Planet and Maverick Citizen are partnering with the Climate Justice Charter Movement to report on issues central to our survival – the climate crisis and people’s democratic alternatives. This article is part of the series and focuses on the challenges young people face as they try to organise to raise awareness and catalyse action on the climate crisis. Daily Maverick. Watch this short film by Raeesah Noor-Mohamed who wrote the article here
The real cure for COVID is renewing our fractured relationship with the planet
As is true of many zoonoses (diseases that jumped from animals), this virus emerged from pressure humans put on a global ecosystem. A lack of healthy, natural habitat weakens the immune systems of animals and the resulting sicknesses pass rapidly through them. Birds, prairie dogs, pigs, bats. With each infection, a chance for a virus to mutate into one that can sicken humans, and sometimes, global livelihoods. As such, a vaccine alone, no matter how effective, will not tip the balance toward health because COVID-19 is not a disease; it is a symptom of an exhausted planet. The renewal of a healthy relationship to our one shared mother, planet Earth, is the cure. The Globe and Mail
We are loving …
… these initiatives which support our aim of living in a more sustainable world.
Mielie Mailer is 100% compostable plastic-alternative to traditional delivery sleeves fly-bags. It’s a simple concept, but one that could remove up to 50 million single-use plastic bags every year from circulation. Major South African ecommerce platform Homechoice, and payment system Yoco will soon start making use of packing made from mielies or sweetcorn in a bid to be more environmentally friendly. Together, the two companies will use over 60,000 of Mielie Mailer’s sweetcorn bags in distribution, which is 100% biodegradable compared to plastic alternatives which often end up in landfills. E-commerce is the fastest-growing retail sector in South Africa, with forecasts ranging from 20-50% year-on-year growth. Mielie Mailer bags are made from spoilt mielies which are not fit for human consumption and for orders below 5,000, the bags cost between R5 to R10 depending on size.
International Green School opens its doors in SA
The first Green School in South Africa, powered by its own solar-generated electricity with classes being held in vegetable gardens has opened on eight hectares of land in the Cape Winelands overlooking the mountains between Paarl and Franschhoek. Green School SA head Andy Wood said: “Rather than being contained within four walls, our learning environment embraces nature and integrates with the outdoors, inspiring students to create bonds with their environment and think more expansively about it.”
The school is modelled on the first Green School, established in Bali in 2008. The school is also carbon and water neutral and consumes less energy than it produces. “Our objective is to build a community of learners focused on making our world more sustainable. The facts about the climate crisis that our planet faces are irrefutable. The hope for the future is in raising a generation of young people who believe that they can make a difference and be agents for positive change.” If you would like to learn more about Green School, please visit their website
WaterBear Network launches
WaterBear Network is the first interactive streaming platform dedicated to the future of our planet. The free service is live in eight countries, including the Netherlands, U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. WaterBear Network aims to facilitate awareness, education and action through its catalog of award-winning documentaries, original content and live streaming. WaterBear features a collection of original content and curated documentaries inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including the first WaterBear Original: Africa’s Hidden Seaforest. From the team behind the award-winning My Octopus Teacher, the short film focuses on mental health and nature’s healing powers, and examines carbon sequestration below the ocean. Also available at launch is Anthropocene, billed as a “cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive re-engineering of the planet,” which has been licensed to WaterBear by partners ZDF Enterprises.
Defy launches solar hybrid product range
Domestic appliance manufacturer Defy has launched Solar Hybrid fridge and freezer products, including a fridge and a chest freezer, both of which use solar and grid power. The appliances run directly off the solar panels when the sun is out and revert to the electrical grid at night when it is dark.
The appliances were designed to lower consumers’ energy costs by up to 44% and are able to keep food frozen for up to 49 hours when there is no power, such as when there is load-shedding − a regular occurrence in South Africa. The Defy Solar Hybrid product range retails for below R6 000 and will be available in 78 stores at the end of February. The installation process is managed by Defy’s partner, which specialises in solar installations, and has a countrywide footprint.