Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs leads a successful clean-up campaign with Wildlands on Mandela Day

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms. Barbara Thompson, led a clean-up campaign on the 18th of July in Pietermaritzburg as part of her Mandela Day commitment. The activities the Deputy Minister took part in included waste collection and the separation of the various waste streams, which ultimately means a diversion of waste from landfill.

Mandela Day provides people with the opportunity to make a difference in the world by contributing at least 67 minutes of their time towards community service or doing a good deed.

Ms. Thompson also used the day to celebrate the cleaning and greening of the Eastwood and Copesville communities, which is taking place daily through the Wildlands “Recycling for Life” project, made possible through local community members who have been given the title of “Waste-preneurs.”

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) through the Green Fund – Expanded Public Works Programme, in partnership with Wildlands Conservation Trust have three key programmes focusing on job creation within the waste sector, youth unemployment, waste collection, separation, recycling and skills development within the context of the Green Economy.

The Wildlands “Recycling for Life” and Waste-preneur project involves the collection of recyclable materials by community members in exchange for credit notes which they can barter for livelihood support items such as building materials, groceries and Jojo tanks. Thus far, a total of 7 686 438 kg’s of waste has been collected and recycled.

Uncontrolled waste has a massive negative impact on natural ecosystems, especially river systems. It blocks natural water flows and poisons the plant and animal life. To highlight this impact a group of Wildlands Groen Sebenza Pioneers and uBuntu Earth Ambassadors did two MiniSASS river tests along the Baynespruit river in Eastwood and explained the results to the Deputy Minister. MiniSASS is a citizen science tool that anyone can use to determine the health of a river. It uses the composition of macroinvertebrates (small animals) living in rivers and is based on the sensitivity of the various animals to water quality. The results showed that this section of the river was ‘seriously modified’, indicating a very poor condition. Results of these tests can be found on the miniSASS website: www.minisass.org.

The Pioneers form part of ‘Groen Sebenza’; a national programme led by SANBI (as nominated by the Development Bank of Southern Africa [DBSA]) and funded by National Treasury as part of the Jobs Fund Programme. Wildlands have 38 Pioneers and the group of Geographers and Community Development workers that joined on the day were thrilled to have an opportunity to spread the message of the urgency of addressing river health in South Africa and highlight this to the Deputy-Minister.

“The waste sector has been identified as one of the critical sectors, with the potential to contribute substantially to the generation of jobs within the green economy,” said Ms. Thompson. “It is within this context that the Department of Environmental Affairs is increasingly expanding its programmes in job creation and enterprise development within the waste sector.”

Wildlands Conservation Trust played a pivotal role in mobilising partnerships within the uMsunduzi Local Municipality on the day, which included Drakewoods, E-Waste Africa, Event Medical Services and Singhs Construction.

“A day like this is so powerful,” said Wildlands CEO Dr. Andrew Venter. “Mobilising people in the community, even those who have never expressed an interest in our waste collection project, and high level officials like Ms. Thompson picking up waste side by side with enthusiasm, is just so heart-warming. This is the potential of a day like this, it gives us the opportunity to change mind-sets and uplift and unite.”

Mandela Day 2014

Groen Sebenza Pioneers and Ubuntu Earth Ambassadors with Deputy Director General Mr Mark Gordon after doing MiniSASS tests in the Baynespruit river. The group ran the tests to highlight the impact so waste on river health. The results showed that the river was ‘seriously modified’. From left to right: Nomusa Ngidi, Snenhlanhla Mngadi, Manqoba Sabela, Nonjabulo Njani, Mxolisi Mabaso, and Deputy Director General Mark Gordon. At the back Driee Zondi, Qondi Shabalala and Mthokozisi Gcabashe. Supplied by Wildlands

Mandela Day 2014 Image 2

Groen Sebenza Pioneers with Wildlands’ Ubuntu Earth Ambassadors Project Manager, Manqoba Sabela, explaining the results of the MiniSASS test to the Deputy Minister. The group ran the tests to highlight the impact of waste on river health. The results showed that the river was ‘seriously modified’. From left to right: Nonjabulo Njani, Nomusa Ngidi, Deputy Minister Ms. Barbara Thompson and Manqoba Sabela. Supplied by Wildlands