South Africa Celebrates Rivers on March 14

Fionella Simbi

Guest blog by Fionella Simbi, International Day of Action for Rivers Intern, South Africa. 

The 17th annual International Day of Action for Rivers on March 14 was special for us here in South Africa. Together with our partners, we chose the theme “Rivers In Crisis – Act-Now.” With our partners from various aspects of the water conservation sector, we planned activities throughout the week from March 10 to March 16. This is the first time I partcipated in the International Day of Action for Rivers and it turned out to be an experience I will never forget. It was also a significant learning experience; I got so much satisfaction from sharing the importance of our rivers with kids and adults of all ages. 

We held events in three provinces of South Africa – the Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng. We worked together with representatives from the provinces to organize our activities, share ideas and keep each other informed about events in honor of this global celebration. As a first-time coordinator of such an event, I found it thrilling to collaborate with so many of our partners and to see different groups and communities come together. Hearing the different suggestions and feedback from all our interested partners was a key aspect in making the events a success. 

Our partners Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) in Kwazulu-Natal organized education and awareness activities around the Foxhilll Spruit. They held practical river education workshops with environmental clubs from Alex and Epworth High Schools and applauded International Rivers’ contribution to their events. DUCT says, to them, “every day is day of action for rivers.”

A Student participats in the Rivers Are in Our Hands project
A Student participats in the Rivers Are in Our Hands project

In Gauteng, Pretoria, we held education and awareness sessions at two local schools: Hatfield Christian College on March 10 and 11, and at a primary school on March 14. The students learned about the importance of healthy rivers, the various threats to river ecosystems, and ways in which they can protect rivers. We had prizes such as t-shirts, caps and pens to give to the students who participated in quizes and games we organized. The students loved our photo project “Rivers Are in Our Hands” as they had the opportunity to come up with creative messages. Their enthusiasim was infectious. The teachers wrote to us saying that the events were so useful and some classes are now learning about rivers as part of the curriculum.

One of our Western Cape partners, Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), hosted a range of activities on March 14. They held a community gathering at the Khayelitsha Wetland Park in Makhaza, which included canoeing, poetry and various presentations, including one on the “Adopt a River Project” from the government’s Department of Water Affairs.  In addition, local women showcased initiatives to keep their rivers healthy. 

Explore4knowledge Group Photo

Explore4knowlegde, also in Western Cape, celebrated the International Day of Action for Rivers by taking students on a three-day river journey to learn about various aspects of river conservation. Activities included a river clean-up, meetings with communities, talks at schools, freshwater sampling, and presentations by conservationists and farmers. They ended the 3-day activities with a public talk in the city on March 16.

We are aware that a number of events took place in South Africa independent of our coordination. We found the week’s activities inspiring and as we celebrated, we felt that we were part of the global community and that we are indeed united by rivers. The children who participated are eager to celebrate again next year and some even have plans to start their own environmental clubs.  We are honored to have been part of such an uplifitng and educational International Day of Action for Rivers. Until next year…

Rivers are our lifeline!!

Fionella Simbi worked as an intern to help organize and coordinate the International Day of Action for Rivers events in South Africa . Fionella is an Organizational Psychology Graduate of Rhodes University, South Africa. She is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Organizational Psychology. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014