A new Environmental Education Centre was launched last week at Delvera farm, at the foot of Klapmutskop.
Representatives from the adjoining farms mingled amongst children from the farm school at Elsenburg who attended the launch. You could follow them by listening to the shrieks when they came up close and personal with some of the animals!
The idea for a greater Simonsberg Concervancy was started when a raging fire jumped from Simonsberg to Delvera in 2000. Whithin a month, rare plants were sprouting where the fire had raged. Suddenly it dawned on the people involved that this spot on our planet was definitely worth conserving. The Winelands Municipality and the Department of Agriculture were approached for funding. Aliens on Klapmutskop were cleared by the Department. There is already a legacy park where one can buy a spot for a grave in nature – I so like this idea – let my body help feed the plants after my death! (read more about this here) Currently the Simonsberg Concervancy has 28 members, including the farm Elsenburg, where the head office of the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape is situated, as well as an Agricultural College. What a great opportunity to introduce this initiative to our future farmers!
too easy to forget our links to nature
Councillor Kobus du Plessis was there to represent the Winelands District Municipality. He reminded us that, since we all live in a very modern society, it is easy to forget our links to, and dependency on, nature. All our food is ultimately produced in nature, even if it comes from a commercial farm. It is therefore very important to make sure that our technologically aware youth have the opportunity to learn from and interact with nature, in a safe and pleasant area – such as the EEC at Delvera farm. We are part of nature whether we want to admit it or not. It is increasingly essential for people to learn not to put nature under pressure. For instance – why are so many people afraid of lizards? Are they aware that there are no poisonous lizards in South Africa? And does everyone realise how essential the well-being of our bee populations are, regarding food security? Fynbos may not have very many edible plants, but the way it conserves and filters water, makes it an essential asset to our environment and our existence, since we are in a water scarce country. With proper management and care, we can assure our own existence by looking after nature – but how do you manage or care for something you don’t understand? This is the role this free EEC on Delvera farm will help to fulfil.
In-between munching on snacks from the local restaurant and sampling wine from the surrounding farms, we visited the exhibitions. When the wine started to enter my brain cavities, I had a very good reason to ‘dilute’ it with a generous piece from the huge and very yummy chocolate cake.
bio-filters mimic natural wetlands
At the Floating Island stall, we could look at and touch a man-made island, used for filtering polluted water. These bio-filters have been used extensively by many municipalities and people all over the world, and they are quickly becoming established as a great tool for water safety in South Africa. This is an example of biomimicry where natural wetlands are mimicked.
At the stall allocated to Eco Paints Solutions, we were introduced to paints with no after-smell, no toxic ingredients. They are also highly flexible, UV-resistant and cost effective, as they are made from plant polymers. I was so sorry that I didn’t know about them when I painted my flat two years ago and had to temporarily move out of my home to escape the paint fumes!
As usual, the WWK stall with its iconic Panda was worth a stop. Sustainability, food security in a changing climate and the outcomes of COP 17 were some of the subjects touched on – all very relevant to this new conservancy. At the stall of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, we could see how the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy would fit in with this greater conservation initiative in the area. The vision for the biosphere reserve is to “promote the development of the Cape Winelands as an area of excellence and good practice for people, culture and nature” and again the whole idea of the EEC on Delvera farm perfectly fits in.
plants relish in natural fibre
Coir Peat uses natural fibre as a substrate for their (portable?) gardens. It seems as if the plants relish in this somewhat uncommon ‘soil’. I was admiring the beautiful, if somewhat unusual light fittings nearby, when someone drew my attention to the fact that these light fittings were made from empty plastic beakers and bottles. Amazing – I would never have thought about such a use for my empty container.
the main attraction
The main attraction, for me, was the exhibit by Eagle Encounters. Just the day before I was admiring a black eagle soaring above Elsenburg, and here I could actually touch one! It was a difficult choice between the eagle, the falcon and the two owls – which was the biggest attraction? I lost my heart to Twiggy, the wood owl which actually climbed onto my arm and let me scratch its head. Interesting to me was that, for the first time, I had to admit that my home language, Afrikaans, falls short in some instances. In Afrikaans we have two words for the raptors – ‘valk’ and ‘arend’. In English it ranges from falcon to kestrel, eagle, kite, harrier and buzzard (and here I am not talking about the carrion eaters) and each one has a different way of hunting or eating. He informed us that, apart from birds of prey dying from the extensive use of pesticides, hundreds of owls are killed every year because of superstition. Some people believe that if an owl lands on your roof, someone in the house will die.
When I asked about breeding in captivity, the handler answered: “We don’t encourage it; the females will often see the male as a meal rather than a mate”. What could I say? If the man is not to your liking… ”Go Girl!”
By Anélia Marais