Strengthening environmental awareness and sustainable partnerships through sport
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority teamed up with local SMME and environmentalist Raymond Langa on 16 December for a community youth sports event at Khula Village, which borders the southern part of the World Heritage Site.
The iSimangaliso and Dukuduku Sports Tournament event was hosted at the Nyamazaneni sports ground in Khula and was the finale in a round of games played in the month of November, organised by Raymond. He felt this would be an ideal vehicle to aid the message of conservation and environmental care which is so important to him. Raymond received training through one of iSimangaliso’s capacity building programmes and is an accredited Environmental Education facilitator working in the Park with dozens of school groups each year.
According to Langa, “I am always frustrated by the environmental degradation activities taking place in areas of conservation significance. My area has many wetlands with an abundance of wildlife, seasonal birds and waterfowl. I have identified one area which is very significant to the entire village, but households living next to it dump all types of filthy items into it.”
“To raise awareness, I approached the local school and conducted a workshop on the sustainable use of natural resources. Learners are studying Tourism in Grade 10, but they have little background of responsible tourism in their syllabus. I further invited locals to participate and promote environmental health to curb diseases as most of the litter is hazardous to both human beings and wildlife.”
Following the clean-up activities, Langa was thrilled to notice that beautiful birds which had left the area started coming back to these rehabilitated wetlands.
It was his drive and initiative that drove him to request a partnership with iSimangaliso in a sports event, and he opened the event with a talk on his environmental education activities, wetlands and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. An introduction on iSimangaliso was also given by the Park’s Environmental Planner, Siboniso Mbense. He engaged with the youth by first asking questions to spectators for which he offered an iSimangaliso t-shirt or cap for the correct answer. These questions included identifying major problems faced by South African parks and the detrimental human impact on nature.
Of course the key draw card of the event was the sports tournament, comprising several teams from Dukuduku’s three communities neighbouring the Park: Zwenelisha, Dukuduku and Khula.
iSimangaliso’s Slindile Msweli, Marketing Co-ordinator in charge of the logistics and a former bursary student supported by iSimangaliso, said that “the event gave iSimangaliso a platform to interact with the neighbouring communities, strengthen relationships and create awareness. The presentations were well received by the community present. You could see in other people’s faces the excitement of being part of this event; that made it special and it showed that even though thousands were not reached instantly an impact has been made on a few in one way or another, whether it’s a t-shirt they took away, bursary information or a few answered questions about the Park- that to me is an accomplishment.”
Following the event it was gratifying to receive several letters of appreciation including from TM Mdletshe of Khula, who wrote to iSimangaliso to say: “We really appreciate what you did today at Nyamazaneni stadium. It’s given us the opportunity to learn and do something in life. I have gained more than I was expecting during today’s game. You taught me the importance of iSimangaliso and why we should protect our environment as youth.”
Langa, on behalf of the Dukuduku communities and participants, said: “iSimangaliso showed a strong commitment to revive sustainable partnership with locals. Please pass my gratitude and best wishes to the entire staff, and management. From an environmental conservation perspective we need more similar gatherings, in order to achieve general support from the entire communities neighbouring the prestigious World Heritage Site.”
Schools interested in learning more about the iSimangaliso Environmental Education programme are welcome to contact Sifiso Vumase at email@example.com.