21 November 2013 

WATCH A Wave Ahead here. 

CAPE TOWN: The towering kelp forest in a central tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium is stirred into perpetual swaying motion by an artificial wave driven by a mechanical plunger in the far corner of the tank. Looking at this constant movement in the water, aquarium technical manager Mike de Maine thought: how do we capture that energy and make it do something useful for us?

And so, the aquarium’s technical team built a tilted box at water surface level, with a PVC chimney coming out the top of it. Each time the water sloshes up into the box, it forces air through the chimney at as much 100 km per hour, which drives a tiny wind turbine inside the pipe. As the wave recedes, the vacuum created inside the box sucks air back down the chimney, driving the turbine once more.

CAPE TOWN: The fishing communities of the Cape West Coast have been managing their marine resources for decades, and their knowledge of the sea needs to be seen as a valuable resource by authorities who are grappling with the challenges of co-managing the country’s fisheries.

Zuki Nomwa, with the Cape-based civil society organisation the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), has been working with traditional fishing communities for three years to encourage local scientific research, and push for fair access to the sea’s resources. 

CAPE TOWN: The impacts of climate change are too region-specific to allow for generalised development projects to be run at pilot level and then ‘upscaled’ viably across a wider region.

Speaking at a water and climate change seminar hosted by the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) this week, EMG project manager Jessica Wilson said it was time to interrogate the idea that a project which works well in one place can be rolled out everywhere.

CAPE TOWN: An educated public is one that demands more of its politicians, is more discerning in who it votes for, and can push for service delivery that is sustainable in the long term, the Environmental Monitoring Group’s (EMG’s) water and climate change seminar heard this week.

This emerged after a community member from Makhaza, Khayelitsha, testified to how she had been empowered as an activist, simply by receiving education on the water cycle through various civil society-organised workshops. The result of this capacity building was a groundswell of activism within the community which has pushed the City of Cape Town to be more equitable in its water service delivery, community involvement in clearing up a nearby wetland, and food gardening.

CAPE TOWN: Water activists in rural and urban areas can learn from one another in spite of their geographic differences, since they face many similar challenges particularly when dealing with municipalities on water service delivery issues.

Reporting on the outcome on the Western Cape Water Caucus (WCWC) quarterly meeting, regional coordinator Thabo Lusithi said the August 15 gathering was an important opportunity for rural and urban water activists in the province to share knowledge and build stronger relationships ahead of the national South African Civil Society Water Caucus meeting scheduled for this September.

KHAYELITSHA, CAPE TOWN: The Makhaza Wetland and Food Growers – the newly minted name for a loose collective of activists who have been working in their Khayelitsha community in recent years – will spend much of next week conducting an ‘asset audit’ to see how they can build on their existing skills, physical assets and social networks. 

This is part of a community-led development approach, hosted by non-governmental organisation the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), which has been working with the community since 2010.

‘During the course, we will take a look at five areas where the community has different kinds of assets,’ explains EMG’s Thabang Ngcozela. ‘We’ll look at what level of education there is within the group, what their knowledge and skills are. We’ll do an audit of the natural resources in the area, such as the Makhaza wetland, and river, the land in their community and the park.’

Thirdly, the group will do an inventory of their social assets, for instance what kinds of service organisations, sports clubs or funeral groups might be active in the community. Next will be an assessment of the built environment – for instance what homes, halls, roads, and services are present in Makhaza.

‘Finally we’ll try to quantify their financial assets. Where do people get their money from, is it from government grants or from an employer or do they earn from their own business?’

Ngcozela, who also lives in the community, says an asset-based community development approach like this is an alternative model for development.

‘Instead of looking for the needs and the gaps within the community, and at the different problems, and then building programmes around how to solve those problems, we do an inventory of all the social, economic, knowledge and infrastructural assets within the community. Then we see how we can build on those assets.’

EMG will host the workshop process from Monday 26 August to Friday 30 August.

For more information, contact:

 Thabang Ngcozela

Tel: 021 448 2881

Cell: 078 803 4321

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WESTERN CAPE: The small fishing community of Buffeljagsbaai, near Hermanus on the Cape south coast, is about as obscure as the sea snail that the locals have been harvesting here for generations.

But for a group of entrepreneurial women here, the ‘alikreuk’ – the South African turban sea snail or the alikreukel (Turbo sarmaticus) – is more than just a chewy sea creature to skewer on the end of a fishing hook, which is how the government sees it. They want to make a living out of pickling it, or making alikreuk frikadels and soups. For them, it’s a local delicacy which they believe they can woo passing tourists and maybe even find an export Chinese market.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Organic rooibos tea farmers of the Heiveld Cooperative from Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape have a quandary. These emerging farmers produce a boutique product that’s ethically and environmentally sound. But to reach their international markets, they have to ship the tea great distances, which racks up ‘air miles’ and gives the product a big carbon footprint.

Ideally, they’d like to tap into a market here in South Africa, one that’s prepared to pay a premium for tea that’s been grown in a way that treads lightly on the environment, while also benefiting poor black farmers. Reaching this kind of local market would also help absorb some of their produce as international sales dip in the wake of the global recession.


A sad farewell to Thabang Ngcozela

All of us at Environmental Monitoring Group, and the wider EMG family, are deeply

saddened at the passing of our dear and esteemed colleague, Thabang Ngcozela.

 Thabang has been an inspiring and deeply respected leader in South Africa’s

environmental justice movement for the past 25 years. He has contributed with

committed, strategic leadership to the many networks he has been a part of, and his

 passionate, politically rigorous, collaborative way of working has brought strength

and integrity to the collective struggle for environmental justice.

Born in the Eastern Cape, Thabang moved to Cape Town in the early 1990’s. He

was a co-founder of Ilitha Lomso and worked there as a youth educator, and through

this work came into contact with the environmental justice movement. He became

the Western Cape coordinator of the Environmental Justice Networking Forum in

around 2001, before joining EMG in 2005. He was a highly skilled network builder,

community development facilitator and organiser around a wide range of

environmental justice issues. Thabang was a founding member of the South African

Water Caucus (SAWC). In recent years he has become a facilitator of ABCD (asset-

based community development) and EDE (Ecovillage Design and Education), and

was inspired to share this approach with his community. Thabang said “As I was

born in the rural Eastern Cape, one of my interests has been to contribute in some

way to the place of my birth. My history of community activism during the apartheid

era further deepened my need to make more of a contribution. When I started

working at EMG, I saw the opportunity to take the work of the organisation back to

 my home”.

Thabang was an integral member of EMG’s water and climate change team. He

 cared passionately about his work and helped build a practice of appreciative

enquiry with his colleagues. Thabang always encouraged us to articulate what

we were grateful for in each other. There are many things we, as colleagues, are

grateful for in Thabang, including his incredible political acumen, his insight into

social processes and his generosity of spirit. We also never (or seldom!) grew tired

of his storytelling and ice-breakers, in particular the story featuring a donkey...

Thabang mentored dozens of young activists, through reading groups, study circles,

drawing them into the networks, finding (or creating) internship opportunities, and

pushing them to find their voice, their confidence and their strength. He was an

extraordinary builder of organisations, and a committed socialist. He was also

curious, open hearted and always integrating new ideas and approaches into his


He moved back to his home village of Ngqwele in 2015, where he has dedicated

himself to implementing community led eco-village design, which he framed as

healing nature and healing ourselves. Speaking about this work, in villages of the

former Ciskei scarred by violence in the dying days of apartheid:

“There is personal healing that people have to go through, there is community

healing that needs to happen, and the relationship between people and the land

needs to heal. Talking to one another is the first step, but doing things for one

another that show our caring also helps”.

Thabang leaves behind a broad community of people who had the privilege of

working alongside him through the course of his life. We will all miss him


Lala ngoxolo Comrade Thabang.

Thabang will be laid to rest on Saturday the 18th of May in Ngqwele, Eastern Cape.

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