Protection of oceans

Share their story

Cameron Service, 34

Chief executive
The Litterboom Project

The ocean has always been an important place for Cameron Service, who grew up near the beaches of Durban. While working as a trail builder, he found himself confronted with the ugly reality of plastic pollution, which inspired him to start The Litterboom Project, a river waste interception programme.

“What started as a passion project for me to do more in my personal capacity has led me on a journey where we have achieved far more than I ever anticipated,” he says.

The Litterboom Project installs floating barriers across rivers that collect plastic waste upstream before it reaches the ocean. The design is low-tech, easy to install and manage, and is designed to exist in the wild without being stolen.

The first Litterboom was installed by one team working part-time in KwaZulu-Natal’s Umgeni River. Service now employs 30 staff members and there are more than 30 Litterbooms installed along various South African rivers. “It is encouraging to see the scalability of this solution, which gives me hope that we can solve our plastic pollution problem,” says Service.

He believes the key to creating long-term solutions is a blended approach: tackling environmental problems alongside social and economic issues. “Treating the environmental plastic pollution problem without considering livelihoods or waste management infrastructure ensures you will never achieve true sustainability,” he says. As well as tackling pollution hands-on, The Litterboom Project also focuses on education concerning environmental issues and systematically creating change.

The Litterboom Project has partnered with a number of private sector companies to develop more ways to “future-proof” the ecosystem. “The hope is to be able to have something replicable and scalable for not only South Africa, but also globally for countries with similar challenges to us,” says Service.

“Treating the environmental plastic pollution problem without considering livelihoods or waste management infrastructure ensures you will never achieve true sustainability.”

Andie Reeves | mg.co.za
Faye Brownell, 43 and Sanele Vilikazi, 31

Faye Brownell, 43 and Sanele Vilikazi, 31

Leader and people mobiliser
Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust

When a group of local canoers noticed the deteriorating quality of the uMngeni and uMsunduzi rivers, they decided to do something. The Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) was born in 2005. Since inception, Duct leader Faye Brownell and Duct public mobiliser Sanele Vilikazi are proud of how the trust’s focus has grown as it gains recognition and support.

Duct’s work includes controlling and removing invasive plants, improving waste management systems, and monitoring sewage pollution, uncontrolled sand mining operations and illegal dumping. Duct also raises public awareness about river health issues, providing access to its skilled team who create programmes to assist communities.

Brownell says the organisation has come to appreciate that it is the communities alongside the rivers who must create sustainable solutions. “Rivers are the lifeblood of our communities. How do we engage with communities so they come up with their own solutions?” she says. Duct acts as a catalyst to enable changemakers in these communities.

As Brownell points out, every person and business is reliant on water. There is no point in waiting for the government to fulfil a mandate when water is essential to every part of our life.

For Vilikazi and Brownell, in an ideal world, rivers would be safe enough for people to swim in. From source to sea, communities would be participating in the management of their local rivers and catchments with the support of organisations such as Duct. “We would have people in formal and informal structures who show care to the water waste connected to rivers and wetlands, and who would take ownership and responsibility for these resources,” Vilikazi says.

Committing to river health is not easy. Vilikazi sees Duct as a light that flickers but tries to shine brightly, hoping that other candles will brighten things up along the way.

“Rivers are the lifeblood of our communities. How do we engage with communities so they come up with their own solutions?”

Shaazia Ebrahim | mg.co.za
Jean Harris, 58

Jean Harris, 58

Executive director
WildOceans

“We want people to understand the connection between people and nature,” says Jean Harris, the executive director of WildOceans — a platform for a coastal community-based “citizen science” movement that aims to benefit the coastline and its inhabitants, both animal and human.

The Wild Trust board expanded its work to include a programme on the marine environment four years ago, and that’s when Harris was brought on board.

Among the projects WildOceans oversees is Oceans Stewards, which takes young science students on its own research vessel to sea. These trips have increased awareness about the ocean among the youth. WildOceans organised an Africa Youth Summit, which was attended by more than 500 delegates. “It’s about giving youth the knowledge and allowing them to make change and reform the wrongs we made in the past,” Harris says.

Another important project is to expand the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). South Africa currently has about 5% of its marine areas protected, but it should be about 30%. Recognising this gap, WildOceans has embarked on an urgent campaign called Ocean iMPAct for South Africa to expand to 10%. MPAs are important tools to fight climate change.

MPAs sometimes have a bad reputation in coastal communities that are excluded from their benefits. WildOceans recognises that even environmental organisations must work for people, and need to help people to prosper from nature.

WildOceans backs up its advocacy and campaigning with science. Given the urgency of climate change and the state of our oceans, Harris says WildOceans is definitely part of the movement for crucial change.

“It’s about giving youth the knowledge and allowing them to make change and reform the wrongs we made in the past.”

Shaazia Ebrahim | mg.co.za
Anthea Rossouw, 70

Anthea Rossouw, 70

Founder and programme leader
Dreamcatcher South Africa

Dreamcatcher South Africa is a network of predominantly women in the local tourism business. These “kamammas” run their own community-based tourism businesses and services. The network shares a common vision for more equitable tourism. It establishes and manages sustainable, outcomes-based projects to stimulate local economic growth.

Thirty years ago, founder and programme leader Anthea Rossouw set out on a 10-year journey to research and develop her concept of taking authentic, diverse tour experiences into local communities. In the 20 years that followed, she recruited members and worked with communities across South Africa.

Rossouw had nothing to guide the business models she has developed over the years. Some of these have earned the organisation global recognition. Dreamcatcher’s work found its way into Europe and the UK, and Rossouw has consulted for the UK government. Her contribution earned her the Gatwick Green Diamond Award.

One project, the Wasteland, Graced Land initiative, is a reclaimed waste dump site that has been declared a UN biosphere and will soon be published as an academic case study. It focuses on South African communities and aims to guide future niche tourism product development for students, academics and others. Dreamcatcher has also been approached by other African countries to collaborate.

Dreamcatcher enables women, girls and youth enterprises (as well as some men) to develop ownership, accountability and co-responsibility where they live, while developing a portfolio of business opportunities with tourism as its cornerstone. It subscribes to an ethos of environmental stewardship and partnership to provide solutions for environmental regeneration.

 

Dreamcatcher South Africa enables women, girls and youth enterprises (as well as some men) to develop ownership, accountability and co-responsibility where they live, while developing a portfolio of business opportunities with tourism as the cornerstone. It subscribes to an ethos of environmental stewardship and partnership to provide solutions for environmental regeneration.

Linda Cilliers | mg.co.za
Masifundise Development Trust

Masifundise Development Trust

Masifundise Development Trust

The Masifundise Development Trust advocates for small-scale fishers. Masifundise’s vision has evolved over more than four decades. Originally established in 1980 as an adult literacy outreach trust, Masifundise supported people of colour in the Western Cape during the apartheid era, providing them with access to education.

In 1998, Masifundise began to change focus. The trust realised that with many organisations working on land issues, no one was paying attention to small-scale fishers, leaving the fishing community vulnerable.

Masifundise Development Trust registered itself as an independent trust in 2004. Their first key moment was the mobilisation and organisation of the small fishing communities. While the government was developing legislation for commercial fishing rights, it became apparent that the proposed system disregarded small-scale fishing. Masifundise successfully campaigned for a change in policy development at grassroots level. Small-scale fishers became involved in policy-making, putting them firmly at the centre of decision-making. The policy took into consideration the knowledge of the fishers and interaction with the ecosystems in which they worked.

Since 2012, Masifundise’s work has expanded the full length of the South African coastline. In 2017, the organisation turned its attention to assisting inland fishing communities, with current legislation not recognising small-scale fishing for livelihoods in rivers and dams.

Masifundise provides fishing communities in South Africa with the relevant knowledge and skills to become their own “agents of change” through its food sovereignty in small-scale fishing programme.

A 2018 supreme court of appeal ruling recognised the rights of small-scale fishers to continue customary fishing practices. Masifundise Development Trust empowers fishing communities to assert these rights.

 

“We empower fishing communities to assert their rights. In terms of conservation, we strongly believe that small-scale fishers are the custodians of natural resources because they depend on these resources in order to survive.”

Carol Chamberlain | mg.co.za
Neville van Rooy, 42

Neville van Rooy, 42

Community outreach coordinator
The Green Connection

Neville van Rooy travels the country, driving from coastal community to coastal community and educating residents about the dangers the oceans face. These communities are often reliant on the ocean for their livelihoods and face ever-present risks that come in a variety of forms, such as fracking and offshore oil and gas projects. Through Van Rooy’s work, these communities are able to take action both independently and collectively to put a stop to developments that threaten not only their way of life, but also the complex and interwoven ecosystem that they rely on — the ocean.

Taking the term “boots on the ground” literally, Van Rooy regularly visits the communities he works with, and travelled to three of the four coastal provinces at least twice in the past year alone. The pandemic has restricted his ability to connect with people across the country, but Van Rooy remains steadfast in his determination to empower communities and protect our environment.

Connecting with everyone from small-scale fishers to coastal community leaders, he has managed to create a unified front capable of opposing commercial interests that might threaten South Africa’s oceans. This work has not gone unnoticed, and Van Rooy’s community engagements led to protest actions against offshore oil drilling, which, in turn, led to the department of environment, forestry and fisheries taking notice.

As the community outreach coordinator for The Green Connection’s Who Stole Our Oceans campaign, his work is integral to the larger fight to protect the natural wonder that is our nation. At his core, Van Rooy is somewhat of a missionary for our environment. With both a degree in
theology and qualifications in conservation, he is well equipped for the task.

Through his deep connection with the oceans that border our nation and the communities that rely on them, Van Rooy fights to protect these precious parts of the country.

James Nash | mg.co.za