“Walking with Koos in the veld is like walking with a botanical colleague, only it’s a little bit more interesting” observes Prof. Ben-Erik van Wyk. Ben-Erik, a renowned ethnobotanist at the University of Johannesburg, visited Koos Paulse in the Suidbokkeveld near Nieuwoudtville, describing him as “professor of the veld”, in contrast to his own status as “professor of the books”. Koos has a proud Khoi-San ancestry and carries immense knowledge of indigenous plant use. Against the painful backdrop of apartheid and rural neglect, Koos has been able to tell this story about change, recognition and the restoration of dignity.
Linda Fortune knows about the pain suffered by people of District Six in the forced removals of the 1960s. Not only was the community ripped apart and cast out onto the Cape Flats, but their access to the spiritual presence of Table Mountain was removed.
Junaid West is one of a few youth who have moved back into renovated District Six. To defuse the threats of gangsterism and drugs to this new community, he and his friends start to explore the mountain that once again is in their backyard – can it still be a place for spiritual guidance and recreational value?
In February 2016, veteran CareTakers filmmaker, Tim Wege, went off to the Graaff Reinet area to see what happens at the South African College for Tourism’s Tracking Academy. This institute, based at the Samara Private Nature Reserve, was established to preserve the indigenous knowledge that underpins animal tracking and other elements of traditional bush-craft. He has now put together a short 15 minute film of his inspirational encounter with Master Tracker Pokkie Benadie, his wife Jannetta, and eight students who have joined the chain of participants who will keep this knowledge alive.
Negry is a Rhino Ambassdor (RA) in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C). She lives in Newington, a village close to Kruger National Park. It is her job, along with RAs in other villages of the region, to speak to villagers on behalf of the rhinos facing extinction through the poaching of their horns. Her story is told in this participatory film project with involvement of a small group of other young Rhino Ambassadors working with K2C.Her narrative is intertwined with the perspectives and energetic innovations of community elder, Killion Mabunda.
“I believe that every plant on Earth has a purpose”, says Barry Koopman to his son Berty. Berty is one of six young people from the Suid-Bokkeveld who are traversing the area to visit community elders. They hope to learn about the local indigenous knowledge that once supported sustainable living from the veld. To capture this local wisdom, the group decided to make a film that they will be able to use in stimulating local interest in the community’s history, which in places can be linked to Khoisan cultures of the past.
The community of Hangberg in Hout Bay, Cape Town, has a history of struggle and deprivation, and is deeply scarred by the social engineering of Apartheid. Xoma Aob is a resident herbalist who regards the current struggle for equity and social development as a set of challenges to his Khoi heritage and the rights of South Africa’s first nation people. His activities and achievements on the steep slopes of the Sentinel mountain are inspiring blends of urban agriculture practice, innovative architecture and a deep care for his community — especially the children.
Tlou Masehela, as a youngster, used to be afraid of bees. Having made his peace, he has now embarked on his PhD, doing important research into the Cape and African Honeybees’ forage needs. Working together with honeybee forage expert Martin Johannsmeier, he shows us how they are investigating the food sources used by bees throughout the year. Come spring, Tlou joins up with beekeeper Brendan Ashley Cooper to have a look at how his hives, relocated to the blossom-lands of the fruit orchards, provide the essential service of pollination that forms the fruits that we take for granted on the supermarket shelves.
A city without Nature is at risk of losing its soul. For Cape Town the stakes are high. Bongani Mnisi is a nature conservation manager with the City. Working with several high schools, he is establishing a set of “stepping stone” gardens across the Cape Flats to help birds traverse the urban environment. By planting nectar rich species, they hope to provide nutrition for the long-billed sunbirds and sugarbirds as they move between Table Mountain National Park and conservation areas of the urban lowlands, pollinating up to 300 fynbos species as they go.
“In Kassiesbaai there is no other work, just fishing”says John Felix. John is a small scale fisherman living in the village of Kassiesbaai – like his father, uncles and grandfather before him. But these days the fish are scarce. To the east, their former fishing ground at De Hoop has become a marine coastal reserve, and is a no-take zone. Marine biologist Colin Attwood argues for the long-term value of this protected area, adding that better targeting of desirable species, and improved marketing methods, could help John and his community to restore the local fishing industry. John agrees that there is hope for sustainability.
Can big construction projects and environmental conservation coexist? Alastair Campbell thinks that they can. After a number of years as the Environmental Control Officer on the building site of the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, Alastair believes that to achieve ecologically sustainable development, environmentalists need to become directly and actively engaged “at the coalface”. Contrasting environments that he shows us are birdlife on a pristine wetlands on the one hand, massive concrete infrastructure on the other, and an artificial set of nesting “apartments” for a colony of bald ibis whose traditional homes will be lost to the impoundment.
During the early 1900’s the Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia sp.) became a serious invasive plant across the Great Karoo, causing much harm to livestock farmers. In this film ex- farmer Brian Hobson, vividly recalls his experience of the invasion, while entomologist, Helmuth Zimmermann, takes us on a journey across the region to show how two parasitic insects introduced in the 1940s eventually brought the Prickly Pear under control. In the meantime, Kanyisa Jama of SANBI’s Early Detection Programme has her eye on the future, identifying new invader cactus species escaping from nurseries and domestic gardens.
Ebraime Hull loves indigenous plants. At the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay he got to know them as a garden labourer. His love grew as he developed the skills to become a propagation specialist.
Ebraime’s passion for plants was amplified by his talent and ambition as an aspiring artist. He is now proud to be part of the tradition of botanical painting, which for centuries has serviced both science and the creative arts. This is the story of a young man who shares both the joy of creativity and the hard edges of daily life.
This is a short film about men, mountains, loss and ritual, set against the backdrop of life in a South African township. Lerato Kossie, has experienced the healing power of the wilderness, and leads a group of young men from his neighbourhood for a weekend in the mountains. In this unfamiliar environment, he guides them through wilderness solitude and group sharing to confront their inner fears and search for personal strengths. Botha, a member of the group who knows crime and violence at close quarters, also tells his story, and of his hopes to reform in preparation for his imminent fatherhood.
Legend has it that a Khoisan Princess living on the Cape Flats in the early days of European exploration, was violated by sailors. She fled to the mountain fortress of Elephant’s Eye cave and wept so much that her tears formed Princess Vlei. Today, local communities are fighting against inappropriate commercial development that threatens the natural beauty, recreational value and spiritual heritage of this traditional commonage. The story is told from the different perspectives of: Emile, a rap artist and community activist; Kelvin, a local businessman and green revolutionary; and Nikita, a youth leader and budding conservationist.
In the 1960s, Chief Sidoi had a vision of prosperity and environmental sustainability for the Mabandla community in the grassland foothills of the southern Drakensberg. His grandson Zweli is taking this vision forward to a local economy based on commercial stock farming and plantation forestry. Local youth are also being trained as rangers for conservation of the remaining tracts of pristine grassland and indigenous forest. Dr Bill Bainbridge and Peter Nixon are elders of the conservation and development sector with access to the hard won knowledge of previous generations that must be built into the blueprint for a prosperous future.
The backdrop is COP17, the UN Climate Change conference in 2011. Action is the building of a unique horticultural art piece about biodiversity, technology, and the human spirit in the Durban Botanical Garden. This is the “Living Beehive”, a sophisticated steel structure based on the design of the traditional Zulu hut, and clad with a 3-dimensional garden of indigenous plants. Some deep thinking COP delegates visited the Beehive and shared their perspectives on its symbolism for global ecology.
Wetland expert Mbali Kubheka demonstrates adaptation action, taking us to rural communities that benefit from rehabilitation of damaged wetland ecosystems.
Ernst van Jaarsveld worked at SANBI for more than 30 years. In this film we follow Ernst and his young student assistant, James, on a collecting trip to the remote and beautiful Richtersveld. Their purpose was to document and collect plant species from a little explored mountain ridge. We learn about his passion for succulent plants and his appreciation of how these have adapted to living on cliff faces. We discover how far he will go to learn more about these fascinating species, and how to protect this highly diverse desert environment.
This is a road film. Jenifer and Johan are nature conservationists who take us to project sites in the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor. Amongst the partners we meet are a Sandveld potato farmer, a Working for Wetlands team clearing alien invasive plants, a fish monitoring programme in the pristine upper reaches of the Olifants River, and a local farming community in Wupperthal who are being shown conservation friendly ways of dealing with problem predators. “The concept within the Corridor is People in Partnership to make things happen”, says Jenifer. “It’s when people start thinking differently and asking different questions, that’s what excites me”
Tribute “Birdie” Mboweni is a young Cape Nature conservationist who has been living and working on the West Coast’s Dassen Island, protecting and studying the largest surviving colony of African Penguins.
“Should one ship miss this light, they could all be destroyed”, says Tribute looking out into the night from the flashing lighthouse. She is at peace with her solitary life on the island. She reflects on lessons that she has drawn from her observations and involvement in the cycle of birth and death that she makes as both a professional conservationist with CapeNature, and as a compassionate human being. Tribute believes that it is her duty to share the passion, and “plant the seed” of conservation in other young people world-wide.
Asieff Khan manages the False Bay Ecology Park, a tract of both municipal and conserved land in metropolitan Cape Town.
On our trip around the Park with Asieff, we find some stark contrasts at the interface between urban and natural systems: Elegant flamingos wading in the settlement ponds of a sewerage works; Pristine fynbos vegetation separated from poverty and deprivation in an informal settlement by a concrete palisade fence to keep poachers out;. and majestic vistas of water and birdlife against a backdrop of urban industry.
Asieff, Manager of the park, tells us how the lives of many people have changed since starting to work with nature, or using it as a vehicle for education of children in an otherwise bleak world.
Alison Kock lives her passion. “I have such and amazing life!”, she says about her work as a marine biologist with a special interest in sharks. In this film we spend time with her on a boat off the coast of Seal Island in False Bay, surrounded by seals and the Great White sharks that prey on them. We observe at close quarters the jaws that strike fear in most ordinary people. But Alison believes that we need to treat these creatures with respect, and to appreciate their importance in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.
Lydia van Riet is an entrepreneur who harvests wild flowers for export in the rolling terrain of the Agulhas area. With support and encouragement from the locally based Flower Valley Trust, she has proved herself a skilled and visionary businessperson. The area is a biodiversity hotspot that demands careful management, but it also sustains a community in need of social and economic development. Lydia’s project addresses both of these concerns It applies careful methods to harvest the fynbos without damaging future productivity and also provides a range of work opportunities for local people.
The Pondoland Wild Coast, known for its immense beauty and wealth of biodiversity, is under serious threat. Highway extension plans and a mining proposal have caused local community leaders and organizations to come together to protect this abundant yet vulnerable land. Sinegugu Zukulu is one such leader, and we travel with him to his birthplace to discover the vast amount of endemic plant species unique to the area. Talking to members and leaders of the community, we hear about a deep respect for the land, which far exceeds any benefit that might be derived from monetary exploitation. His message is a call to actio
Kerri Wolter manages a centre for vulture research and rehabilitation on a farm at the foot of the Magaliesberg, taking in sick and injured birds for recuperation. Amongst the reasons for declining numbers of the Cape Vulture are fatal contacts with the many high voltage powerlines that criss-cross the country and exploitation by illegal muthi traders. She wonders what it would be like to soar with these majestic birds, and finds the opportunity to fly with a paraglider along the Magaliesberg escarpment. We join her on this unique trip, accompanied by a sky full of vultures.
The Knersvlakte is said to take its name from the grinding sound that wagon wheels of trekking settlers made as they crossed these arid but beautiful plains of quartz gravel, into the land of first nation pastoralists and hunter-gatherers. This is a story about respectful land use, traditional tenure, conservation planning and collaborative management of natural resources. Interviewed along the way are people whose different interests are presented: A Griqua leader at a traditional event, a sheep farmer at odds with predators; conservation managers and planners with an eye on the future, and botanist with a passion for the small and succulent.