Water is big news at the moment, with five provinces declared as drought disaster areas. South Africa uses almost all of its available water already, and there’s more demand all the time. It’s important to remember that water affects everything – it’s not just drinking and washing, but also irrigation, industrial processing, and ecosystems that suffer.

A local example of this is Lavender Valley. What could be a fertile, productive area that both feeds the local community and strengthens the local ecosystem is instead a toxic mire. It’s seen years of dumping, without anyone coming to clean up the waste, and has become a health hazard, for both the wildlife and the local community. It’s high time something was done, and the Adopt A River team are here to help out.

The 50-strong team will be working over the next two months, clearing and improving areas all around the river. They are here as part of part of the Department of Water Affairs’ national Adopt-A-River programme, which is being locally managed by Amatola Water. With summer approaching, this is especially important. A clear watercourse is a benefit to the whole environment over the summer, and a serious problem if it is dirty.

The heart of the programme is connecting with other projects. Once you’ve cleared up your local watercourse, you can instantly improve the environment. For example, removing blockages that lead to stagnant water will significantly reduce the mosquito population in the area. As they put it, “The initiative aims to piece together, in a sustainable manner, the aims of aquatic ecosystem health, economic growth and human health, as well as co-dependent land and water-use principles.”

To do this, the Adopt A River project aims to both assess, beautify, record, and improve the local area. Amongst other things, the project will include making visual observations of habitat and land uses, measure the physical and chemical characteristics of waters, and assess the abundance and diversity of living creatures such as aquatic insects, plants, fish, birds, and other wildlife.

Last week, they met for a two-day workshop, covering both water affairs and local environmental problems. Tim Bull from the Kowie Catchment Campaign put together the training programme, along with Sithole from DWS and Ndumiso from Makana.

During the programme, several speakers gave presentations. These included Mark Thomas from the SPCA and Jeff Budaza from the Parks Department, who gave talks on dealing with stray and dead animals, which arte a major problem across town. On the second day, Luthando from WESSA gave detailed presentations on waste and recycling.

Chirag and Zukisani from Feeding The Self also did a short but intensive session looking at the human side of making a change. Rather than adding to all the information the other speakers presented, they focused on how to keep on encouraging yourself to make a difference, and how you can make a plan to fix problems within your community and local area. The dumping in water courses is a perfect example of the kind of change that can be very hard because of the people around you ignoring or talking down what you’re doing. It’s essential for you to record your progress, and remind yourself that the cynics are part of the problem, and you’re part of the solution.

The Adopt-A-River team, which is largely composed of women and drawn from the local community, will be active until February, and integrating with different bodies to try and foster local environmental improvement. If you like the idea of adopting a local area as your own to look after with your family, friends, or co-workers, the Kowie Catchment Campaign are running an Adopt-A-Spot programme in Grahamstown. They’re looking for people to take over and record different spots around town, with the idea of working towards a complete community map of town, and will publicise your environmental photos and activities.


Do you have a project you’d like to see featured in Gardening in G’Town, or a gardening question? If so, please get in touch. Feeding The Self is a cross-NGO project focused around building gardens and using them for teaching and community building. You can find out more about us from our website, and if you’d like to get involved please email me at chirag.patel@feedingtheself.org or send a message to me on 0735 578 909.