CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Every story needs a hero. And when you’re working in non-fiction, it has to be a real hero. But for a group of Cape Town storytellers, they’re almost spoiled for choice amongst a group of dynamic water activists in a ‘township’ on the outskirts of the Mother City. Here’s how they muddled through this classic writer’s dilemma.

They call it the umfudo, the ‘tortoise’, because it hides inside its shell: the blue, flat-topped water management device, sunk into the ground outside many homes in low income communities in Cape Town. Every day, it measures out the family’s municipally-allocated 350 litres of free daily water.

PIKETBERG, SOUTH AFRICA: Vegetable gardeners in a mountainous nook in the Swartland, two hours’ drive north of Cape Town, are part of a groundbreaking study where scientists are trying to fine-tune global climate and water models into something useful for smallscale farmers. The results have been surprising for farmers and scientists alike.

Right from the start, the vegetable gardeners of the remote Goedverwacht mission village, in the mountains near Piketberg, said they had a good idea of what the greatest threats were to their survival as small farmers: the dense infestation of Port Jackson wattle, an alien invasive tree from Australia with a ravenous appetite for water, which grows prolifically on the banks of their only irrigation source, the Platkloof River. And the high irrigation needs of neighbouring commercial farmers.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Global environmental activist group, WWF, recently teamed up with the national broadcaster to host a discussion on the price of water. Because the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), an Untold Stories partner, operates at the coalface of social justice issues relating to accessing and pricing water, the group’s Jessica Wilson responded with this thoughtful piece, published in the weekly national paper, the Mail & Guardian


Water has no price. Deprived of water for long enough, you’d give everything – literally – for a sip, to save your life. For some, ‘everything’ is the wealth of nations; others have nothing material to give.

Government is relooking at water pricing, particularly for the bulk users – industry, agriculture and municipalities. Water is currently too cheap, they argue, and because of this, we use too much and are wasteful. This is quite probably true at a bulk-level, certainly for industrial water users. But as we look at domestic water, things get a little more complex.

KING WILLIAM’S TOWN: Farmers from eight villages in the Ngqushwa municipality will meet with representatives of the provincial Ministry of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, at the launch of the Ward One Farmers’ Association at Eteyni village, 60km south of King William’s Town this Friday, 17 May.

The Ward One Farmers’ Association grew out of the need for greater cooperation amongst smallscale farmers in the Eastern Cape as they grapple with the challenges of accessing markets, dealing with stock theft, and improving their skills in alternative farming methods.

‘Farmers needed a collective space to share experiences, and a common platform to address their concerns to government,’ explains Thabang Ngcozela, with the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG). EMG has been working with the Ngqushwa community to tackle critical water needs in recent years.

The association represents the needs of farmers across eight wards within the Ngqushwa municipal region. EMG has worked with these farmers to deal with issues of drought and water scarcity, and climate change, as well as help train farmers in permaculture methods. 

‘Now, with the Farmers’ Association, we can start to look closely at issues of market access, creating secondary agricultural industries here in the community, and setting up farmer cooperatives,’ says Ngcozela.

The launch will be attended by representatives of the Minister of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, as well as by municipal representatives and local farmers.


Ward One Farmers’ Association Launch:

When:  9am, Friday, 17 May 2013

                Where: Community Hall, Etyeni Village, Eastern Cape


For more information:

Mr Thabang Ngcozela

Project Manager: Water Justice Programme with the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG)

Cell: 078 803 4321


Mr Ngxobongwana

Ministry of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

Cell: 073 836 5163


Mr Lindikhaya Ngwendu

Deputy Secretary: Ward One Farmers’ Association

Cell: 073 697 4502

After years of working with small-scale farmers of the Suid-Bokkeveld, we were challenged to capture and share some of our learnings. The result is the publication "Adaptation with a Human Face" which was launched at a side event at the recent Climate Change COP18 in Doha.

Adaptation with a human face coverNow you can get your copy!!

Contact us to order the full complete full report (not yet downloadable)...


...or simply download the short version (380Kb PDF)

EMG has commissioned exciting research, on fracking and water, and on the water energy nexus.

The first report, entitled 'You can't have your gas and drink your water', by Liane Greeff, looks at fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in the context of South Africa's looming water crisis.

The second report, entitled 'The energy-water nexus: energy demands on water resources', by Brenda Martin and Robert Fischer from Project 90x2030, looks at the water implications of energy production.

They are now available - read them here:

fracking coverwater energy cover


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.

All The Latest News