Climate change is fast becoming one of the biggest threats that mankind faces, yet if you walk through the village of Vatsonga it’s hard to believe any of the scientific predictions.
At first glance Limpopo is not an ideal contender for South Africa’s greenest city. Most farming activities in the area are now taking place on the edge of survival, due to even minor changes to rainfall patterns, aggravated by drought, threatening food security.
But on the outskirts of Limpopo, tucked away like a hidden treasure, is one of the city’s best kept secrets. Nestled at the top of Ribolla Mountain is the self-sufficient cultural village of Vatsonga.
Enter a time warp
With yards of green grass that seem to go on for eternity, roof tops of traditional huts peeking out of the hills – a picturesque view overlooking 25 surrounding villages in the Elim area- you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had entered a time warp.
The Vatsonga Cultural Village Projects consists of 56 women and men from around Elim. They meet from Monday to Friday at this peaceful location, using various skills such as crafting, sculpturing, pottery, painting and dancing. On a blistering Saturday afternoon they had travelled about 70km to visit the Climate Train at our 11th station stop, Louis Trichardt. We were now on our way to drop them off at home to plant some trees.
“It was a fantastic day! I have personally learnt a lot about climate change, recycling and saving electricity and water. We knew about climate change, but took it so lightly. We didn’t realise that it had already caused so much damage. We are so fortunate to live on such beautiful land, yet we brush off causes and consequencesto climate change. But now that we’ve been empowered by all this knowledge, our duty is to spread this new gospel and educate more people so they can be aware,” said project assistant manager Hlenkani Maluleke.
With care, Earth will take care of us
With a rich and wide variety of vegetation raging from banana, guava, nuts, mangos, avocado and marula trees, we wondered whether the seemingly insignificant trees we brought along to plant will make any difference to this lush village. But Harry Nulovhedu from the project assured us otherwise.
“Today I learnt that deforestation is one of the main causes of climate change, therefore one can never have too many trees. This is the way people used to live centuries ago. They lived off the ground and relied on it for everything. If you take care and appreciate Earth, she will take care of us. Every time we water these plants we will remember what we were taught on the train,” he said while assisting WayWord Sun from AMbush Gardening Collective as he was preparing the ground.
Somehow we will overcome
Asked to share some of her challenges faced due to climate change, Irene Mukongonui said: “Normally we don’t experience such heat and the rain patterns have also been quite irregular. Yet when I stand on this land and breathe in its fresh air, I feel its beauty and believe that somehow we will be able to overcome this problem we are facing now.”
With 60% of the community members depending on farming and agriculture and no rain, they are growing increasingly weary. Food security is becoming a worrying concern, says Hlenkani Maluleke.
“Most of these women come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some are school drop outs and others come from really dire situations. Most of the farmers plough with corn, but the irregular weather patterns are affecting their crops, making it very difficult to farm.”
By Louis Trichardt