24 May 2012
Since filming The Manager in 2010 there have been many exciting developments occuring in the False Bay Ecology Park. We caught up with Assief Khan this month to learn more:
Skills development programme:
The skills development program is an operational funded project which aims to provide local employment at our Nature Reserve. Members are chosen from a job seekers list and are often the uneducated and unemployed. With the program they are forded the opportunity to have meaningful employment over two years. In that time period they are further exposed to a variety of short courses covering issues such as HIV Aids, financial management, life skills and workplace behaviour. They also cover a ranger of certified courses i.e. First aid level 1, First aid level 3, Chainsaw operators course, Brush cutters operators course, Wild fire suppression, Learners licence code A and C and if successful Drivers licence Code A and C.
2010/11 saw a team of 12 people partake in the program. Of this team Grant Ravell and Jonathan Jackson were both featured in the film. I am glad to say that they both have managed to obtain permanent jobs with the City of Cape Town. From that same team two other members have also received permanent status while four others are on long term contracts. I am still to tract down the remaining members.
2012/2013 A new group of six have been chosen to participate in the program. They have started in February this year and each of them have a unique story. One Christelene Matthews a 23 year old female released from prison in February (out on parole) was incarcerated for seven years since the age of sixteen for murder. Was on drugs at the time and had no real direction in life. This is her first real job and a great opportunity for her to take charge of her life.
Farook Abraham: Had a job with media 24 for 17 year. Lost his job in 2008 (not to sure of the reason) and has not been able to find other employment. By, his own admission has lost all his provident pay-out and with that has fallen on hard times. Too cover his debts sheriff has repossessed his vehicle and furniture to pay creditors. He is trying to rebuild his life.
Elizabeth Paul: Shares a house with 20 other people (family and others) of which she is one of three bread winners.
Andre Plaatjies is currently a drug addict. He lives in a house with 13 others where he is one of two breadwinners. He has three months in which to try and help himself to continue with the program. He is the softest spoken person you could meet but has problems.
Elonor Van De Merwe: An older woman (everyone calls her aunty) has three kids but a tik addit husband that is currently causing havoc on the family life.
Lizel Ruiters: Unmarried mother of two dropped out of matric due to bad influence from others. Looking to do matric and set better example for her children.
The programm applies EPWP standards where 60% are female and the remained male.
Eastern shore redevelopment project
This project excites me as it has all the making of something great. The Eastern shore is an area which for years has been neglected and used by the wrong element. Activities included: dumping, prostitution, drug dealing, drug usage, rape, murder and even suicide. This was because for five years from 2000 to 2005 the site was left with no management.
In 2005 3 staff and I were appointed on a short term contract at Zeekoevlei Nature reserve. We have tried to develop the site so that it could be used for mass base recreation. In 2009 Joanne Jackson (ERMD City of Cape Town) put in an application to National Government for a redevelopment of the eastern shore. That application has been approved in 2011 and the project is currently underway. A total of 25 million rand has been allocated to the project of which majority of that will go directly into salaries. The projects will employ no less than 200 local community members for two year on EPWP standards.
After the success of this application, Provincial Tourism will further fund one million rand to the project as their contribution. This is the first time that I know of were all three spheres of government are working together for one common goal. All plans for the developmet can be made available.
Vrygrond community library
Bernadine is a “champion” in the local community. Amongst many activities, what stands out is that she has personally set up a community library and crèche next to her home in the informal settlement, despite the fact that she faces poverty herself. She took it upon herself to source materials, books and equipment for these facilities and she runs an aftercare & holiday programme for the children in the community, educating and even feeding them as well. Outside NGO’s, such as Projects Abroad (UK-based) have been attracted to her projects and have supported her with international volunteers who have helped build the crèche and who assist in caring for children at the library and crèche.
Her latest endeavour has been to gather support from members of the community to clean up a piece of vacant land between the informal settlement and the reserve boundary, which was used for some time as an illegal dumping site. They are busy converting the area into an open soccer pitch for the community to enjoy and have been recycling dumped tyres from the nature reserve in Zeekoevlei and surrounds to create borders around the pitch. They will also be landscaping the area with indigenous plants.
Bernadine is not only involved in community upliftment, but also regularly assists the staff of False Bay Nature Reserve by keeping a watch on the boundary of Rondevlei close to her home and regularly communicating with reserve management. She always immediately contacts us if she sees any disturbances along the boundary such as trespassers, theft and vandalism to the fenceline or even fires that occur in, or close-by to the nature reserve. Notifying the reserve staff in this way has prevented numerous uncontrolled fires from threatening the nature reserve and has allowed for quicker response times for many law enforcement situations. In addition, Bernadine has assisted greatly with educating the community and local children about the benefits and importance of the nature reserve, which helps support our Environmental Education outreach programme objectives and she often stops children from entering the nature reserve via the fenceline by alerting them to the dangers of doing so. She has also held litter clean-ups where she involves the children and she has even taken a group of children on an environmental education camp through the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust in her own time.
Bernadine has recently joined as a member of our False Bay Ecology Park Steering Committee and attends the quarterly meetings, where she is able to contribute useful ideas and communicate the needs of the surrounding community to various stakeholders who form an advisory committee to the False Bay Nature Reserve and similarly to convey important information back to the community from these meetings for us.
We would like Bernadine to share her passion with the rest of the Fynbos Forum and to share her stories about the challenges and successes of projects she has initiated in the local community. These lessons are valuable ones to share at a platform like the Fynbos Forum where other conservation managers and environmental practitioners will be present, because as urban development increases in the Cape Floristic Region, so do we as conservators increasingly need to deal with conservation in an urban context and find new ways of integrating conservation with surrounding social needs to ensure long-term sustainability. We would also like to recommend that Bernadine should contribute a poster to the Forum if possible. The theme we were thinking of is “the other side of the fence”, where Bernadine could perhaps reflect on the community’s perception of the nature reserve from the outside and then also touch on some of the achievements and activities I mentioned above which have been successful ways of reaching out to the community with a conservation message.
The Fynbos Forum would also be a wonderful opportunity for Bernadine to experience the greater conservation network that exists and to likewise learn lessons that she too can apply. Bernadine’s circumstances have never really allowed her the opportunity to travel outside of the City, so affording such an opportunity like the Fynbos Forum would be a fitting gift to someone like Bernadine who gives so much of her own time and effort into community upliftment and conservation.
Since Bernadine Thomas is a private individual, we cannot request sponsorship from the City of Cape Town, so I would like to find out whether the Fynbos Forum Committee could please consider sponsoring her attendance to this year’s Forum. It would be especially good timing since False Bay Nature Reserve will also be motivating to send our own staff members to showcase the Skills Development Programme at the Forum this year. The Skills Development Programme is capacity building programme which has been successful in training members of the local community, while employing them at our nature reserve, which has enhanced many people’s opportunities for future employment. This theme ties in nicely with that of Bernadine’s in combining community upliftment with conservation.
Kader Asmal Legacy Project
The project aims to address the many water catchment related issues we suffer in the city. The project is funded by the City of Cape Town and strives to employ as many people as over six months to tackle catchment issues. At FBNR 33 such people are employed and have been working since February.
Student Conservation officer training
Each year FBNR employs students who are doing their third year Nature Conservation Diploma and mentors them for the year. 2012 sees two students who are currently at our reserve and are doing well.
FBNR runs two overnight EE facilities and one day program facility. We aim to excite and teach as many children as possible about the environment around them.