It proved to be an intensive yet rewarding journey, as several Living Catchment Project partners spent a few days in the Olifants River Catchment, taking part in a site recce for the upcoming 3rd Catchment-based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure. The recce team consisted of the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI) staff, the videography team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and a representative from the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2CBR). They saw and assessed the venue where the Indaba will be held and the sites to be visited by delegates on the first day of the SANBI convened event.


Tawanda Gijima from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Rion Lerm from the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) installing the LoRaWAN gateway

As part of their two-day quest, the team visited the Dinkwanyane Water Smart Project in Phiring, Limpopo. The project is funded by the Government of Flanders in partnership with Conservation South Africa, K2CBR and the Hoedspruit Hub.

One of the site coordinators, Rose Selahle, said that the project has helped them to work closely with the communities by teaching them how to save water and has allowed them to act as mentors to the local farmers as well as assisting them with access to markets.


Dr Tony Swemmer (SAEON), Leon Reynolds and Nick Theron from Kruger to Canyon Biosphere Region; Mbali Mashele from UNESCO ROSA and Jan Graf from the Institute of Development, Learning, Environment and Sustainability.

Accompanied by passionate site coordinators Zodwa, Rose, Conny and Dumisa, the recce team went on a hike of the Sethunyeng Trail, guided by the quite knowledgeable Lucius Hlatshwayo. The team also visited Mariepskop and witnessed the implementation of one of the projects.

Critical aquatics

Together, the Upper Sand and the Blyde Catchment in the K2CBRform part of the Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSAs) of South Africa. According to Le Maitre (et al. 2018) SWSAs refers to 10 percent of South Africa’s land area that provides a disproportionate 50 percent of the country’s water runoff. They reflect the fact that water is unevenly distributed across the landscape and that some areas, such as mountain catchments, are particularly important sources of water.


SANBI & K2C team discussing livestock & rangeland management field sites in Phiring. From the left Dan’sile Cindi, Matome Matlabo and Nomusa Mashile from Conservation South Africa, Itumeleng Selebalo and Rose Selahle from the K2C team.

These two water basins support the livelihoods of downstream river-dependent communities and a number of economic activities, such as farming and recreational activities. This was on display as the team engaged with project partners who work closely with farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises, land owners and the community at large on critical matters such as adaptation and climate change resilience, rangeland management and agro-ecology.

Both catchments have been identified as a priority for strategic monitoring of water balance, water usage, and flow. Due to this, the K2CBRin partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA), South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), installed an Internet of Things “IoT”s for environmental monitoring. These include micro-weather, modular weather station, water level sensors, and LoRaWAN gateway.These IoTs comprise of Lora which is a long-range, low-power network that will be beneficial for the improved monitoring of the Upper Sand and Blyde Catchments to address current gaps.


Sonia Mokoena takes the recce team through her seed collection process at the agro-ecology demonstration garden in Thorometsane Primary school, Phiring village

Through this collaborative approach, the installation and implementation of the monitoring network provides technology transfer and capacity building from UNESCO and ICTP to local partners who are tasked with protecting, conserving, monitoring, managing, and controlling water resources. This activity aligns with one of UNESCO’s five Be-Resilient Project Pillars – Capacity Building and Technology Transfer. This is further complimented by the two additional project pillars, namely, Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis, and, Monitoring and Early Warning.


Rangeland management ecosystem custodian, Connie Timbane, taking the recce team through her project

Indaba ya manzi (meaning ‘the story of water’)

Learning more about what it involves to inform local level planning and decision-making regarding South Africa’s important ecological infrastructure assets resulted in this multistakeholder partnership group spending significant time exploringthe living catchments. It proved to be beneficial in breaking ground for 1 to 3 November 2022 when SANBI will be convening the 3rd Catchment-based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure in the Olifants Catchment in Hoedspruit under the theme ‘Our water – working together for water security’.


SANBI & the University of KwaZulu-Natal team with K2CBR field guide at the Sethunyeng ‘gun rock’ hiking trail in Phiring village.

For more information about the 3rd Catchment-based Indaba on Ecological Infrastructure, please contact Dan’sile Cindi

Further reading

  • Le Maitre, D.C., Seyler, H., Holland, M., Smith-Adao, L., Nel, J.A., Maherry, A. and Witthüser. K. (2018). Identification, Delineation and Importance of the Strategic Water Source Areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland for Surface Water and Groundwater. Report No. TT 754/1/18 Water Research Commission, Pretoria.

 

 

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