Mushroom photographs by kind permission of Anton Bernard


Who are Mycelium?

Growing our own food: three case studies
Kos Gangsters video for MMOCA
Positive spinoff of the nurdle disaster
UCT aims to become net zero water university by 2050
South Africa’s first Green School to open in Cape Winelands

To diarise
Transformative Cities 2020 People’s Choice Award
2020 Wavescape Surf and Ocean Fest

Interesting reads
Mushrooms Clean Up Toxic Mess, Including Plastic. So Why Aren’t They Used More? Environmental destruction is the human rights challenge of our time: Archbishop Tutu

We are loving
South African Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement
Waste Transformers
Pavement Gardens and Eduplant

In the midst of political, social and economic upheaval around the world, there are also glimpses of hope amid the gleams of a new, re-discovered world of beauty, creativity and connection to Earth. These tendrils of be-coming are found in the renewal of localised food systems, more powerful calls to protect our waterways and oceans, citizens’ demands for a just energy transition, and a resurgence of community spirit emerging from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the term ubuntu is understood as relationships between people, the perhaps lesser known term ukama speaks to the relationships we share with all creatures and ecosystems on Earth. The spirit of ukama has never been more needed, particularly in our food systems. Much of our work showcased in this month’s edition looks at farmers who practice their craft with the Earth with love, reverence and a respect for the natural systems that sustain all life. Mycelium Media Colab focuses on those stories that reach beyond conservation and even sustainability to showcase regenerative practices that map the road to a better and more beautiful future.
Mycelium Media Colab is a collaborative enterprise that uses storytelling to inspire a movement towards a regenerative world. We bring together the talents, skills, resources and energy of multi-media creatives and communicators. We offer a range of professional services and provide income-generating opportunities through the creation and distribution of content, whilst raising awareness of regenerative solutions. We aim to assist young talent grow their skills and make the necessary contacts to share their unique stories and develop professionally.

Membership to the Mycelium Media Colab is open to multimedia storytellers, artists and regenerators that share our vision collaborative and transformative change. It offers a networking and support space for members to share skills and inspiration, and creatively cross-pollinate, as well as a platform and organisational structure for projects that require a team.  Ownership of projects is shared between the creators and the co-operative. Contact for more information and visit


Growing our own food: three case studies

With the World Food Programme being announced as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, World Food Day celebrated recently on 16 October and the razor-sharp focus COVID-19 has brought to food insecurity in South Africa, we wanted to highlight some success stories that are disrupting the current food system.

The University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Change estimates as much as 34% of our population went to bed hungry during South Africa’s lockdown. Professor Kate Alexander, the author of the research, commented that the deputy director of the Department of Social Development told parliament that roughly 50% of the South African population is food insecure.

Food security starts with small steps….

Ocean View Organics, Cape Town, Western Cape

In December 2019 Neighbourhood Farm, with help of the community, established an agricultural training hub in Ocean View, South Peninsula, South Africa. By February 2020, ten members from the community completed their training as agri-entrepreneurs. The group, rebranded as Ocean View Organic Farmers aka the Kos Gangsters, is under ownership of local community members and has taken full responsibility for the farm and its productions. The farm is situated on the Ocean View high school grounds and is a neighbour to Communities Wellness Solutions. The on-site bakery using a wood-fired oven has baked more than 13 500 loaves of bread since the start of  lockdown and donated more than 7 000 to local NGOs and centres that care for the frail, the disabled and the vulnerable. The farm has donated food to local soup kitchens and set up community gardens at the mosque and police station, as well as smaller planter box gardens at various places. The Hoenderhok Cafe plans to open a Pay as You Can day at the cafe in 2021.  Visit them on Facebook

Growing food is a political act –
it speaks to one’s ethics, one’s sense of responsibility for the health of people, animals and the Earth and one’s obligation to ensure that we leave behind us a better world than the one we inherited

Stefanie Swanepoel, OV Organics Co-op Manager
& Mycelium co-founder

Grow Nolukhanyo, Bathurst, Eastern Cape

Bathurst is a small rural community with few employment or business opportunities. Food security is a massive problem. Yet, our climate is perfect for growing vegetables and trees. Food literally comes out of the ground FOR FREE! Our dream is to provide the people of Nolukhanyo the means to grow their own food, and by doing so, to green and beautify the area. We started supporting ten existing gardens in January and now they and others are providing food to those families as well as the soup kitchens which we hope to set up in partnership with the Bathurst Development Trust. To date we have donated seeds, seedlings, trees, vines, compost, wooden planter boxes and, most recently, water tanks. Visit them on Facebook

Elangeni Green Zone, Durban, KwaZulu Natal

Durban City provided shelter to about 2,000 homeless people during the hard lockdown in March 2020 and they turned an open public space in the Durban beachfront neighbourhood behind the Elangeni Hotel into an abundant urban farm. The eThekwini Municipality gave 15 men from a nearby homeless shelter permission to use the land and created a source of fresh food and means to earn income. The Green Zone have just signed an agreement to supply Boxer Superstores with their organic produce as they are only using cow dung and water to grow spinach, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and more. They are busy building a greenhouse to plant herbs in December and you can visit them on Facebook

READ: The corporatization of food in South Africa: We can only end hunger when people have control over what they eat and how that food is produced. Africa is a Country

Kos Gangsters video for MMOCA

A Kos Gangster video, filmed at their launch in September, has been finalised for the MMOCA (Mobile Moviemakers, Cape Town, Film Festival), to be screened on the 4th December. Mycelium members Lara Taylor (left)  and Natalie Nolte (right) film a large portion of their work using their mobile phones. It is often an intimate way to gain access to stories and with technology growing so fast, it is an effective means.

This video, created by Lara was filmed at the Ocean View Farm and focuses on two of the female farmers. Coming from the harsh environment of Ocean View, their stories highlight the strength and courage that these women have. The farm offers them a space to learn new skills, create new connections and grow their confidence. Mycelium Media Colab knows that it is people, their stories and their drive that will save our environment!  Watch the video here

Positive spinoff of the nurdle disaster

The nurdle spill in Cape Town in October prompted the Centre for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC) to find a solution to the excessive amounts of nurdles found along rivers, streams and beaches. Nurdles are tiny pellets of plastic resin no bigger than a pencil eraser which serves as raw material in the manufacture of plastic products. They granulate the nurdles into a synthetic sand as an additive for concrete. The end concrete products are stronger and lighter materials, which include building blocks for houses, toilet blocks for informal housing, and underground drainage pipes.

If  you’re interested in combating plastic pollution, check out The Beach Co-op and the Dirty Dozen

UCT aims to become net zero water university by 2050

UCT has collaborated with engineering consultancy Zutari to develop and implement a sustainable water management strategy that will result in a reduction of 429 megalitres (ML) of annual municipal water demand on its campuses by 2050. This is equivalent to over 170 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Net zero water is when the water demand met from the municipal supply equals the water demand met from alternative supply options, such as rainwater harvesting, when measured over a period of a year. Reducing the municipal and total water demand at UCT’s campuses will be achieved by progressively implementing various reduction interventions and innovative alternative water-supply options.

“A key focus of the strategy is for the campus to act as a living laboratory that allows students to learn and undertake research through campus facility-based projects,” says Manfred Braune, director of environmental sustainability at UCT.

To achieve this, the estimated committed annual investment in implementing water-saving measures will be R70 million for the next five years and will result in total estimated direct savings of more than R62 million over this period and R21 million annually thereafter. Download the UCT Sustainable Water Management Strategy: Executive Summary.

South Africa’s first Green School to open in Cape Winelands
Green School, a Bali-based environmental school, will open its first South African location in the Western Cape in 2021. Green School offers a new model of education, focused on the natural environment, engagement with the local community and hands-on experience. Founded by John Hardy, it was first established in Bali in 2008 and centres on sustainability through the learning environment, curriculum and co-curricular activities. It has since opened locations in New Zealand and Mexico.
South Africans Alba and Herman Brandt sent their three daughters to the Bali school, and were so impressed by the standard of education that they decided to establish Green School South Africa. Experienced educator Andy Wood will head the South African branch. The school is currently being built in the Cape Winelands, and will be powered by its own solar-generated electricity. The campus is situated on eight hectares of land overlooking the mountains between Paarl and Franschhoek, where indigenous and vegetable gardens, orchards and grain fields will serve as outdoor extensions of the classrooms. It will open in January 2021, and caters to pre-school students as well as grades 1-8.


Transformative Cities 2020 People’s Choice Award

2020 has often been called a year of crisis – from COVID-19 to the climate emergency to heightened racial tension, the world appears to be in free fall. But all around the globe, people are developing local solutions to global problems. Three years ago, we launched an award to highlight stories of cities and collectives that are experimenting with new ways to practice democracy and secure access to basic rights. The award aims to connect and strengthen people-led initiatives from across the world.

Three transformative initiatives in four different categories (water, energy, housing and food systems) were selected as the 12 finalists for the Transformative Cities 2020 Award. Between mid-October and mid-November, 11000 people participated in a global public contest and cast their vote for the initiatives they found most inspiring. On 2 December 2020, the Transformative Cities Initiative will announce which four initiatives received the most popular support. Register to join the Zoom livestream and check out the finalists:

2020 Wavescape Surf and Ocean Fest

The 2020 Wavescape Surf and Ocean Festival will present several online and outdoor film screenings from 4 to 12 December. The lineup is set to include ocean-conscious events ranging from online and open-air film screenings with The Galileo Open Air Cinema to a drive-in surf movie night in Constantia and an outdoor film evening at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town. Other events and elements of the festival include a webinar on making the film industry and film set plastic-free with the Wesgro Film Promotion Unit, a beach clean-up with Beach Co-op and the Spike Swell Course (a virtual evening of wave science and forecasting with Spike from Wavescape). Tickets can be purchased via Quicket and The Galileo


Mushrooms Clean Up Toxic Mess, Including Plastic. So Why Aren’t They Used More?
In the last 15 years, fungi enthusiasts and so-called “citizen scientists” have deployed mushrooms to clean up oil spills in the Amazon, boat fuel pollution in Denmark, contaminated soil in New Zealand, and polychlorinated biphenyls, more commonly known as PCBs, in Washington state’s Spokane River. Research suggests mushrooms can convert pesticides and herbicides to more innocuous compounds, remove heavy metals from brownfield sites, and break down plastic. They have even been used to remove and recover heavy metals from contaminated water. It’s the root mycelia that do all the work.
Yes Magazine

Environmental destruction is the human rights challenge of our time: Archbishop Tutu
Environmental destruction is the human rights challenge of our time and without action, “there will be no tomorrow”, says Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. He was speaking on video at the 10th annual Desmond Tutu international peace lecture held on his 89th birthday on 7 October, under the theme of climate justice. “We are already experiencing loss of life and livelihoods because of intensified storms, the shortage of fresh water, the spread of disease and rising food prices. The most devastating effects are visited on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem — a deep injustice.” Mail and Guardian

RESOURCES: we are loving …

… these initiatives which support our aim of living in a healthier world.

South African Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement
The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) has launched the South African Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement which commits food manufacturers and retailers to reducing food waste to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal to halve global food waste by 2030. Current estimates show that about 10 million tonnes or 30% of local agricultural production in South Africa is wasted each year. This is equivalent to an estimated R60bn a year or about 2% of GDP. “In a country where an estimated 14 million people go to bed hungry every night, this is a monumental unnecessary waste which cannot be allowed to continue,” says Matlou Setati, executive, CGCSA Food Safety Initiative. Read more about the agreement. 

Waste Transformers
N1 City Mall has placed a small-scale Waste Transformer next to their garbage collection hub at the back of the shopping mall. Each tenant throws away – only non-consumable – organic food waste into separate recycling bins, which are collected daily. The Waste Transformer, an anaerobic digester developed by a Dutch company, is fed everyday with this non consumable food waste, which is not fit for consumption anymore. The garbage is shredded and transformed into biogas. The biogas is used to generate green electricity which is fed back into the mall to power its operations. The residual heat will be used for hot water on the mall. Whilst the recovered nutrients in the waste, will be turned into a fertiliser and compost that will be used for the landscaping on the premises to keep the gardens green and fed.

Pavement Gardens and Eduplant
South Africa is undergoing a food revolution with pavement gardens, schools embracing growing and community urban farms popping up all over. Sidewalk Food Gardens celebrates these with a public Facebook group. Another established key player operating since 1994 is the EduPlant School Gardening and Nutrition Programme which focuses on schools, learners, and their surrounding communities. It develops school-linked food security clusters in under-resourced communities and townships with permaculture at its core to creates strong social and food security community networks. Eduplant is a project of Food and Trees for Africa.

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