Cradle of Humankind listed as top tourist destination: National Geographic recently named this World Heritage site one of the 21 must-see places on the planet – one of their 2017 Best Trips choices. Michael Worsnip, MD of Maropeng, sees this as an exciting acknowledgement of the tourism potential of the whole region (Berg & Cradle, February 2017).
Important environmental date: Earth hour – 25 March 2017. Switch off all electrical appliances for one hour on this day.
“We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire, next to a moon that moves the sea...and you dont’t believe in miracles?” (Unknown).
Bee-friendly plant book: This definitive book on plants that supply bees with their vital sources of nectar has been published by the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The book was written by MF Johannsmeier, author of the famous “Blue Book”, Beekeeping in South Africa, and is the latest in SANBI’s Strelitzia series of books on local plants. It can be ordered online or purchased at the SANBI bookshop in Pretoria.
DAFF gazettes protected tree list: The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) has published a revised list of protected tree species in terms of the National Forestry Act (no 48 of 1998). For details of the list see Government Notice 1602 of 23 December 2016, published in the Government Gazette (no 40521) of the same date. (Gauteng Smallholder, February 2017).
Armyworms wreaking havoc in southern Africa: According to a media release of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on 6 February 2017, it was confirmed that the Fall Armyworm (FAW) had been positively identified in maize crops in the majority of SA’s provinces. Kenneth Wilson (News24, 13 February 2017) said that this was a combination of native African armyworms (Spodoptera exempta) and FAWs from tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America (Spodoptera frugiperda). Little is known about how these pest catterpillars had entered southern Africa, but it most likely arrived via imported plants. A sequence of outbreaks began in mid-December 2016 in Zambia and have spread rapidly since. This is the worst outbreak ever in southern Africa and poses a serious threat to about 73% of South Africa’s maize crops. It is now also targeting other crops, such as wheat, cotton, soybeans, ptatoes, ground nuts and sorghum. (RSG news, 13 February 2017). Nine different types of pesticides are available currently, but none of these seem to make any inroads, which means that new pesitcides will have to be produced as soon as possible to combat the pest – otherwise it could have disastrous effects. More information available on
Shoes from the sea’s plastic: The World Economic Forum warns that if plastic waste ending up in the oceans continues at the current rate, there will be more plastic waste than fish in the oceans by 2050. Moreover, it takes between 500 and a 1 000 years for plastic bags to disintegrate. Sports gear manufacturer, Adidas, is of the opinion that sports shoes manufactured from plastic could partially solve the problem of plastic pollution of the oceans. The first 700 sports shoes, manufactured from 11 million bits and pieces of plastic waste from the oceans, are currently on sale for about $200 (R2 700) per pair in the USA. Adidas plans to manufacture a million of these shoes this year still.
South Africa’s contribution to plastic recycling is progressing slowly. According to Plastic SA’s most recent report, South Africans recycled about 292 917 tons of plastic in 2015, but manufactured 1 490 000 tons of plastic in the same year. Municipal water departments are struggling with the problem of solid waste – especially plastic – blocking sewers and causing processing problems at water treatment plants. (Hendrik Hancke, Rapport, 22 January 2017).
Three iconic animal species up-listed on the IUCN Red Data List for 2016:
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis): Habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and ecological changes have taken their toll. The combination of these threats have caused a decline in the global Giraffe population of 36 - 40% over the last 30 years. Now up-listed as vulnerable.
The Plains Zebra (Equus quagga): A population reduction in 10 out of its 17 range states since 1992, with the overall decline estimated at 25% during this period. Now up-listed as near-threatened.
African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus): Up-listed to endangered after analyses of wildlife trade patterns for this species revealed that over 1.3 million wild-caught individuals had entered international trade from 1982 – 2001.
(Chat e-newsletter, January 2017).
Our technological world: Albert Einstein once said: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. He might have been right, and this moment has probably already arrived. Wherever one goes, just about everybody one comes across, has their fingers on their cell phone screens. In stead of communicating verbally, we now do finger communication! Another new trend is that people from the technological world are now hired for posts that don’t even exist yet. There are, however, some sought after skills that a machine can never produce (in order of priority and degree of difficulty): Creativity and innovation; leadership; emotional intelligence; adaptability; and problem solving. (Rapport Beleef, 22 January 2017).
The importance of insects for a healthy ecology: We have often reported on the nutritious qualities of insects. They play a vital role in the food chain – think pollination, products like silk and honey, a food source for birds and other animals, and the fact that they break down organic waste, thereby promoting soil health. According to Pia Addison, entomologist of the University of Stellenbosch, insects are highly adaptable to to environmental change and have well-structured sensory systems. Because they have a short life span, they have to adapt more quickly than larger creatures. Insects are also well known for having intricate relationships with plants and other insects. As plants change, they adapt to the changes. So, when we consider our relationships with insects, it’s all a question of balance. Unless insects pose a serious threat to other living creatures on our property, or are causing structural damage, such as termites might do, we should live and let live.
Did you know? Just under one million insect species have been identified on the planet. It is estimated that the total insect biomass is 300 times greater than the total human biomass. Ants and termites alone are estimated to weigh more than all humans put together! (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).
Health benefits of eggs: Recent news reports have informed us that our country’s poultry industry is experiencing serious problems and that large numbers of employees have therefore had to be retrenched. According to experts, this was not the result of large amounts of sub-standard chicken being imported from especially the USA. Bad planning and management of the local poultry industry and exeptionally high poultry feed prices were to blame for the situation. It becomes increasingly more difficult to keep even a few chickens just to be able to collect fresh eggs.
Eggs are exeptionally good for you. They are a natural choice for a healthy, active lifestyle, and have been described as nature’s piece de resistance. With 6g of the highest quality protein and 14 key nutrients, eggs provide the energy to keep you going. They contain all nine essential amino acids, are high in iron, minerals and carotenoids. The myth spread by Swiss doctors that one should consume no more than two eggs per week because of their high cholesterol content has been revised. New dietary guidelines have given adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again.
Did you know? If you are collecting your own eggs, do not wash them. Unwashed eggs have a natural antibacterial coating called bloom – so try to clean the eggs without wetting them. (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).
SA's first Garden Day
South Africa's first Garden Day was celebrated on 9 October 2016. On this day, everybody with green fingers was encouraged to relax and enjoy their gardens. Whether one had a huge garden, a small garden patch behind one’s townhouse, one’s own food garden or only a few potted plants on one’s stoep, everybody was encouraged to invite some friends over to come and relax among their plants or to just sit and read a book in the peacefulness of their gardens. October is one of the most beautiful months of the year. For advice and tips on gardening, download the free App, Gardening with Babylonstoren. Then you can chat to other garden experts, ask questions and share your knowledge. Visit www.gardenday.co.za for more information.
October is Transport Month in South Africa: During this month, emphasis is placed on the safety of all road users. The first national guidelines for reducing wildlife mortalities on roads were published on 11 October 2016. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) also developed a handbook entitled “The road ahead: Guidelines to mitigation methods to address wildlife conflict in South Africa”. Copies of the handbook can be downloaded from the EWT website:
International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October 2016: To commemorate this day, Co-operative Governance Minister Andries Nel remarked on the identification of ‘capacity shortages’ as just one of ‘several challenges’ undermining integrated disaster management and proactive risk reduction planning at provincial and local government levels in South Africa. Other challenges included institutional malfunction and inadequate planning. As a result, policies and legislation aimed at promoting a holistic approach to mitigating and managing disasters and adapting to climate change were not achieving the desired outcomes. Read the full report:
Neighbour Day to be celebrated on 6 November 2016: For most of us it is no longer a priority to get to know our neighbours better. Use your opportunity on Neighbour Day to get to know your community better. Everybody likes traditional home-made dishes – prepare a delicious bite to eat, and go knock on your neighbour’s door!
Healthy pecan nut, layers of the earth, and fighting cancer with dry beans
Health benefits of pecan nuts: Tree nuts, including pecan nuts, have for long been misrepresented as favouring weight gain due to their high fat contents, but it has now been scientifically shown that they are high in unsaturated fatty acids such as Omega 6 (93.1%, compared to an average ratio of 86% in other nuts) that actually improve weight management. Pecan nuts are associated with health benefits such as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (being rich in polyphenols and phyto sterols), hypertension, type II diabetes and obesity. They are high in energy, plant derived protein, dietary fibre, antioxidants (linked to brain health, which may delay a decline in cognitive function and the progression of age related neurodegeneration), vitamins E and K, tocopherols, and folate. In addittion, they are high in minerals such as magnesium, copper, selenium and potassium, important in a number of metabolic pathways in living cells. These minerals also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are regarded as the main contributors to the health benefits of tree nuts such as pecans. (Dr Ronette Lategan-Potgieter & Dr Gert Marais, SA Pecan, Summer 2016/2017).
The layers of the earth: This may sound like primary school knowledge, but the functioning of the earth’s interior remains fascinating. With the help of seismic surveys, scientists have calculated the distance from the earth’s surface to its centre to be 6 371km. The world’s deepest mine, AngloGold Ashanti’s TauTona mine near Carltonville, is only about 3,9km deep. Seismologists and geologists are of the opinion that the inner centre of the earth is a solid iron ball with a radius of about 1 200km. The outer centre consists of liquid iron and nickel presumed to be about 2 200km wide. The rotation and heat of these centres generate enormous energy, thereby creating the earth’s magnetic field. According to scientists, the layer around the centres, the mantle, consists of magma and silicate (half molten rock) and is about 2 900km wide. The increase in heat and cooling of the silicate cause the earth’s tectonite plates (sections of the earth’s crust) to move, which results in volcanic eruptions, eartquakes and tsunamis. The earth’s crust, which contains more than 5 000 well known minerals, is about 60km deep.
Fighting cancer with dry beans: Dry beans are a major protein staple food with good nutritional properties. They contain essential minerals and vitamins and very little salt. They are also free of cholesterol, control blood sugar, and possess anti-cancer potential. They are versatile and delicious and have a good shelf life. Recent research results showed that the presence of cancer was related to the level of dry beans in the diet, with the highest reduction at 60% dry bean content. At this level, cancer incidence was reduced by 41%, tumour number by 53% and tumour size by 64%. An unexpected result was that, contrary to expectations of better protection form higher antioxidants in coloured beans, one white dry bean cultivar caused more reduction than red beans. Compounds in this bean are being isolated to identify the beneficial one. (Source: CSA News, August 2014). Also visit www.beans.co.za for more information.
SA’s water challenges:
According to prof Anthony Turton (water expert of the Free State and Cape Town Universities), the biggest challenges facing South Africa are: Failing sewerage plants across the country; ongoing allocation of mining rights without any consideration of the negative impacts of mining on water; and perhaps the most concerning, the venomous microcystin neurotoxin in the cyanobacteria poisoning many dams across SA (VeldTalk no 79, 27 August 2016). Read the full article in the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy newsletter on www.veldtalk.co.za.
“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water” (WH Auden).
Beetle threatens Uganda’s coffee industry:
The multi-million dollar coffee industry of Uganda, largest coffee exporter in Africa, is being threatened by a beetle species (black borer beetle) that is thriving in most plantations, due to the current dry conditions. According to experts, these favourable conditions for the beetles migrating to coffee plantations are mainly due to shrinking forest cover and climate change. Some farmers have lost as much as 40% of their potential harvest. The beetle makes small grooves in the young branches of the coffee tree, in which the eggs are laid. This then infects the branches with a fungus that causes the leaves and branches to wilt and die off. (Reuters, August 2016).
Pecans certified as heart-healthy food:
Dr Rachel Johnson, the Bickford Green and Gold Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and an American Heart Association spokesperson, said, “Adding nuts, fish and other foods that are rich sources of good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) gives more healthy options consumers can choose. With antioxidants as well as a tender texture, rich buttery flavour and gentle crunch, pecans make an ideal snack choice for everyone”. Findings from a study conducted at Loma Linda University showed that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping to prevent coronary heart disease. Pecans also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals. One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended daily intake of fibre. They are a natural, high-quality source of protein that contains very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol, and are naturally sodium-free. (Source: The National Pecan Shellers Association, www.ilovepecans.org).
The Green Key Award: Green Key, in partnership with WESSA, was launched in South Africa in 2015. The Green Key Award is a leading standard of excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. Read more: http://www.greenkey.global/
Tomato pest: South Africa’s annual tomato harvest of about 600 000 tons is now being threatened by a destructive pest in tomato harvests worldwide. Tuta absoluta is a highly destructive insect that attacks the leaves and stems of tomato and potato plants. According to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, this pest has now also reached South Africa, after having spread from South America and then to Europe. Moreover, within one planting season, this pest has become resistant to most chemicals used to get rid of it. (Netwerk24 and Reuters, 6 November 2016).
Biodiversity: South Africa is one of the most bilogically diverse countries in the world, only slightly less diverse than Indonesia and Brazil. According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), we are not only surrounded by two oceans, but the country covers about 2% of the world’s land mass and is home to about 10% of the world’s flora, 7% of the reptile, bird and animal species and 15% of all coastal and marine life (Rapport Beleef, 9 October 2016).
National Environmental Managament: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) (Act no 10 of 2004): Updated Alien and Invasive Species Lists were published in Government Gazette (no 40166 of 29 July 2016). Draft distribution maps for certain indigenous species were also published in Government Gazette (no 40398). The distribution maps are applicable to the implementation of the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations of 2007 and the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations of 2014. The Gazettes are available free online at www.gpwonline.co.za.
Solar-powered SA airport flying: Built in 1977, George Airport is now a transit hub for shipments of flowers and oysters, as well as golfers visiting one of the region’s many golf courses. About 700 000 passengers pass through its doors each year. This small site is South Africa’s first “green” airport powered by the sun. The solar plant, launched in September 2015, is only the second solar-run airport in the world after Cochin in India. The control towers, escalators, check-in desks, baggage carousels, restaurants and ATMs all depend on a small power station a few hundred metres away in a field of dandelions next to a runway. Its 2 000 solar panels produce up to 750kW every day, easily surpassing the 400kW needed to run the airport.The excess is fed into the municipal power grid, which supplies 274 households with green electiricity. The environmental value of the project is already evident, as the hub has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 1 229 tons. According to airport manager, Brenda Vorster, the electricity bill has been cut by 40% in the space of only one year. (The Citizen, 11 October 2016).
Municipality ordered to deal with electricity thieves: Electricity thieves may have met their Waterloo countrywide. In an article in the Eastern Cape daily, the Daily Dispatch (10 November 2016), it was reported that the Buffalo City Metro had been ordered to act against Nkandla informal settlement dwellers, who had been stealing electricity from a private farm for the past two years. This was ordered by the Eastern Cape High Court (East London) in a victory for the farm owner, who had been battling to get the Metro to protect him from the electricity thieves. He claimed that the illegal connections had caused frequent power cuts on his farm and had posed a danger to people and animals, as the fencing was always live, due to exposed wires coming into contact with it. The judge ordered the municipality to do all in its power to stop the settlement dwellers from stealing electricity and to ensure that all exposed wires on the farm were removed. The municipality was also ordered to remove electricity poles and install a new electricity line that would be located inside the farm, far away from the reach of the squatter camp. The Metro also had to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the farm.