World Wetlands Day in South Africa

09/02/2007

Rietvlei Nature Reserve



Northern Wetland Rehabilitation

Northern Wetland Rehabilitation (NWR) is a South African section 21 company, funded through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), with a specific two-fold purpose: 1) the restoration of wetlands and 2) poverty relief, through the employment of previously disadvantaged communities (particularly women).

NWR has been operating in and around the Tshwane area for the more than three years, with projects in Soshanguve, Kaalspruit and Rietvlei. The celebration of World Wetlands Day is an important event on the company's calendar, says Implementer, Roger Browne. "Every year we try to make our event educational and informative, as well as fun for our teams, which work in harsh conditions through much of the year."

NWR's Wetlands Day Event 2007

This year, NWR held its event at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, 5km east of Irene, in Gauteng, South Africa. This is a particularly apt choice of location, as the reserve is home to natural wetlands, approximately 8 kilometres long, and in places up to 800m wide. Rietvlei Nature Reserve's wetlands have also been identified as having the potential to sustain peatlands. Peat is a natural organic substance that forms an active part in the filter and storage capabilities of wetlands.

According to Rietvlei Reserve Manager, Riaan Marais, "only one percent of peatlands in the world occur in South America and Africa collectively", and therefore "peatlands such as the one in Rietvlei Nature Reserve are a rare feature on the South African landscape."

Part of NWR's event saw the company hosting two classes (60 children) from nearby Irene Middle School on a visit to the reserve, where they joined with NWR teams and guests for messages on World Wetlands Day, and this year's theme "Fish for Tomorrow?".

We were privileged to get 2 different perspectives on wetland protection this year: our first guest speaker was Sam Chunda, Environmental Education Officer from Tshwane Municipality, who gave an introduction to the importance of wetlands and the history of World Wetlands Day (See photograph). Support Chavalala, Senior Nature Conservation Scientist from GDACE spoke more specifically on this year's theme, "fish for tomorrow?", alerting us to the importance of maintaining a healthy fish population both here, and throughout the world, and offering suggestions to how each and every one of us can play our part in preserving this vital resource.

After the formal part of the event, the scholars were treated to a guided tour of Rietvlei Nature Reserve in a luxury air-conditioned bus (with the tremendous summer heat of the day, those of us who remained for the soccer event were envious of their comfort!). This tour was facilitated by a reserve guide and one of NWR's contractors, Nkeku Kgatuke, who pointed out the diverse fauna and flora, as well as the wetlands and NWR's various wetland rehabilitation sites. This portion of the event is seen as vital in ensuring that the next generation is infused with a mindset of environmental consciousness. The scholars were provided with certificates, confirming their attendance of the event for World Wetlands Day, as well as the Ramsar cardboard fish, which were to be used by their educators to reinforce the wetlands preservation message when back in the classroom. (SEE PHOTOGRAPH)

During this time, NWR's (wetland rehabilitation) teams were given an opportunity to 'let their hair down', participating in an informal six-a-side soccer tournament. One of NWR's main suppliers, and contributor to the event, Maccaferri South Africa, was even persuaded to join in the fun! In keeping with the wetland theme, Maccaferri supplied gabion baskets (wire mesh 'boxes', which when packed with rocks, are an integral part of wetland rehabilitation) which served as goals for the event.(SEE PHOTOGRAPH)

Conclusion

Although the events might be seen as light-hearted and fun, the central message that NWR sought to convey for World Wetlands Day 2007, is an important one:
In the light of our continued development, not forgetting the forecasted changes in our weather patterns, the protection (and if necessary, rehabilitation) of wetlands, is vital to ensuring that man will be able to flourish in a healthy environment in years to come. The bottom line is that the responsibility lies with each and every one of us to help preserve our planet for future generations!

Northern Wetland Rehabilitation
Irene, South Africa
Roger Browne, Implementer

Overview of teams, scholars and guests at formal part of the function (Marais Dam in the background)

Roger Browne, Implementer of NWR, discusses the relevance of Rietvlei nature Reserve as the venue fr World Wetlands Day

soccer teams: Sponsor Maccaferri SA (in green) with NWR team, Dorries Mokono, before their 6-aside soccer match

Speaker, Sam Chunda, uses a poster to explain the various aspects of wetlands

Spectators

Irene Middle School children, pose with the cardboard fish cutouts, which they will put together when back in the classroom

Nkeku Kgatuke, one of NWR's best contractors, highlights NWR's activities in rehabilitating wetlands, by pointing out various aspects on actual wetland rehabilitation sites

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