Citizen Science Awareness Workshop empowers Traditional Health Practitioners and communities

From 13 – 16 May 2024, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), in partnership with Nature Speaks and Responds (NSR), and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), continued their efforts in empowering Traditional Health Practitioners (THPs) and communities by becoming active participants in conservation through their Citizen Science Awareness Workshop.

The second and third installment took the team to Benoni and Nigel, in Ekurhuleni, where they were welcomed by excited community members. Learners and educators from the Chief Albert Luthuli Primary School, as well as THPs from the community came together to discuss the natural resources in the area, namely the aquatic ecosystems, and the numerous threats these ecosystems face, mostly anthropogenic pollution and climate change.

Beyond the collaborative information gained from the sessions, WaterCan – a growing network of citizen science activists who are committed water guardians and willing stewards, advocating for clean, safe and sustainable water – taught participants how they can monitor aquatic ecosystems and gave them the tools to practice after the conclusion of the workshop. Samples to teach participants were taken from the Blesbokspruit river.

Ms Noloyiso Mbiza, Citizen Science (Adopt-a-River) National Monitoring Programme Coordinator from DWS said that “we want our THP’s to know the ecological state of water resources, so they can be able to manage, protect, conserve, and rehabilitate the water resources around them”.

Further objectives of the workshops are to raise awareness on citizen science tools as a means of achieving greater conservation efforts, empower communities to actively participate in freshwater ecosystem management, and to gather essential data for effective conservation and biodiversity management.

Deputy Director: Ecological Infrastructure at SANBI, Dan’sile Cindi, expressed her delight at how successful the workshops have been thus far. “It is about time the biodiversity sector opens up its circle to include all relevant stakeholders in order to mobilise and maximise resources. In this way all citizens are able to contribute to the country’s priorities”.

Traditional healer and CEO of Nature Speaks and Responds, Gogo Nomsa Sibeko, commended the programme’s success, adding that she hopes it is one of many to come. While speaking to the media she expressed her delight at being able to reach out to the young and old to get the message across. “Targeting traditional healers in the gobela (trainer) category will be more effective because they will pass on their knowledge to their initiates, allowing indigenous practices to be carried out in a more sustainable manner that will not affect the environment”.

The next installment will see the team travel to Alexandra township on the 19th and 20th June 2024. It is evident that through the Citizen Science Awareness Workshops, SANBI’s contribution to South Africa’s sustainable development is being achieved by facilitating access to biodiversity data, generating information and knowledge, building capacity, and showcasing and conserving biodiversity.

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