The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI’s) Working for Wetlands Programme has again recognised excellence in wetland rehabilitation within its 40 national projects. The Best Project Award for the 2010/11 financial year went to the Kamiesberg Project, which is based in the arid mountains of Kamieskroon.
The Best Project Award has since 2007, become an annual practice of acknowledging projects that excel in the field, ensuring that gabion and concrete structures are built according to specification while adhering to Health and Safety Regulations. This is not an easy task and each year a team of delegates from the Programme get to witness the ever increasing responsibilities and complexities that field workers face due to diverse and intricate catchments and landscapes that they work on.
The Kamiesberg team is led by Ben-Jon Dreyer, a very young but impressive project manager, whose enthusiasm for wetland rehabilitation is contagious to all. Dreyer’s team always produces structures of high quality. The project team members come from Kamiesberg’s neighbouring communities, Paulshoek and Leliefontein.
The sites that this project rehabilitates are hidden within a windy, dusty and bumpy road that takes you from Garies through the mountains to Witsand, Eselsfontein and Kleikop. These are remote and semi-desert areas of Namaqualand.
The implementing agency for this project is SANParks. The total project budget for 2010/11 was R1 767 000. The estimated number of indirect beneficiaries stands at 164.
The Kamiesberg project removed hundreds of alien plants in one of its assignments within this area, reviving a fountain that had been sucked dry by these alien trees. Forty one men and women from two neighbouring communities, Lelifontein and Paulshoek have executed this work with such pride and efficiency.
This year the Programme was lucky to be accompanied by delegates from its funder and partner, the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), and delegates from the Department of Water Affairs, in all three events that took place in the Western and Northern Cape. Cape Nature, SANParks and farmers who are involved with these projects also braved the cold weather and joined in the celebration.
Most people in this area work as sheep herdmen in local farms and do not take home much of an income. Life in this part of the country is extremely difficult. It is programmes like Working for Wetlands and Working for Water (removing alien species) that try to make a huge difference in communities like Lelifontein and Paulshoek.
Even though this area can be described as a semi-desert, after the removal of alien species and wetland rehabilitation projects started working in this area, an old fountain has been brought back to life with running water. Now neighbouring communities have even started vegetable gardens.
According to Heidi Nieuwoudt, the provincial coordinator who manages the Kamiesberg, Duiwenshoek and West Coast projects said “All the projects delivered accordingly. They all had very good audits.”
Nieuwoudt emphasised “Kamiesberg is always a star. Their efforts go beyond the Project’s core function and this is astounding. They do an incredible amount of awareness-raising and have a high profile in the areaThey are indeed a wonderful team doing excellent work.”