At its 20-year celebration event in Cape Town last night, Biowatch celebrated 20 years of learning, sharing and activism to protect natural and agricultural biodiversity across South Africa.
The event was a highlight on the first day of the Agroecology for the 21st Century Conference currently happening at the Centre for the Book, Iziko Museum and Spin Street Gallery. The three-day conference has brought together more than 220 regional activists, academics, smallholder farmers and policymakers to explore ways of rapidly moving Southern Africa towards an agroecological future.
Retired Constitutional Court Judge Justice Albie Sachs (pictured, above) who ruled in the landmark Biowatch Case in June 2009, gave the keynote address at the celebration:
“The Biowatch Case is a point of references. Anytime anyone in court is arguing about costs in constitutional matters they quote the ‘Biowatch Case’. The case was a victory not only for Biowatch, and not just for the environment, but for all vulnerable and marginalised groups. Today is not only a celebration for Biowatch, but also a celebration of our Constitution. I want to say how proud I am of the judges today who are continuing in the tradition that we tried to build up early on.”
“The theme of the environment is so important for all South Africans and it’s marvellous to know that there are specialists – not just with technique and communications, but specialists in your hearts, in your vision, in your approach to the world. Long live Biowatch, long live!”
A highlight of the celebration was the announcement of the recipient of the first Biowatch Agroecology Scholarship. The scholarship for post-graduate studies, which is aimed at deepening the understanding of agroecology, including its science, practices and social movements, was awarded to Tsekiso Ranqhai.
Ranqhai, a PhD candidate with the SARCHI Bio-economy Group at the University of Cape Town, will receive R300 000 over three years. Frustrated with the lack of food security in his rural home village, Ranghai is motivated to find solutions and will be examining the tensions between traditional smallholder farming practices and the government agricultural policies in Lesotho.
The event was also a celebration of the landmark 80th birthday of one of Biowatch’s long-serving Trustees, Dr Nombulelo Siqwana-Ndulo. Siqwana-Ndulo is a sociologist, rural development public policy analyst, gender equality and gender justice practitioner, and a human rights activist. For several years, she was Commissioner on the national Gender Commission.