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Working with traditional leaders in the uMngeni Catchment

During October, more than 60 traditional leaders (amakhosi and izinduna) of uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KZN were trained in two separate workshops on the understanding of ecological infrastructure in an effort to solve water security issues and to promote a culture of sustainable development in the catchment.

The workshops were facilitated by WESSA staff with expert input, and various tools were used to deliver the workshops. These included a set of uMngeni catchment maps that show the different activities taking place on within the catchment, map the point source water quality drivers and highlight the state of the river water quality. The ‘Windows on our Wetlands’ educational resource was also used to helped participants to understand environmental issues and solutions concerning uMngeni catchment’s water security. Wetland and dam capacity reduction models were also used to demonstrate some of the goods and services which people get for free from functioning ecosystems – these include water provision, soil erosion control, food provision, natural water treatment and flood regulation.

The traditional leaders also go their hands and feet wet while doing a miniSASS exercise – the bio-monitoring stream assessment scoring system of assessing the river health. This exercise was done on the uMsunduzi and Mshwathi rivers, and the traditional leaders were visibly excited to discover the multitude of life forms that were present. It was encouraging to see our traditional leaders becoming enthusiastic water scientists.

A particular highlight of these workshops was the handprint pledges (an action to solve our footprint) that the traditional leaders made to save the catchment. Most of them pledged to share the knowledge gained with their communities, and to view the ecological infrastructure in their respective areas differently in the future when conducting various activities.

A recommendation made by the traditional leaders was for these workshops be offered to a broader audience including community members, with a strong emphasis on youths and ward councillors.

The workshops were implemented by WESSA in partnership with WWF and funded by the Maas Maasen Fund.

We would like to thank our partners CoGTA, uMgungundlovu District municipality, uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Programme, GroundTruth, and Duyaze Environmental Consultancy for making these workshops possible.