The objective of the Great Lotus Canal Challenge is to engage local communities and students to understand the importance of ecosystem health for maintaining water quality and reducing disaster risk.
In 2020, The Umvoto Foundation (TUF) partnered with Communitree, Site-Specific Land Art, and the Edith Stephens Nature Reserve (ESNR) to develop a series of environmental and groundwater stewardship workshops focused on the large Lotus Canal adjacent to a nature reserve. As part of this project, TUF and partners also worked with communities around the Lotus Canal through art and supporting grassroots clean-up initiatives around waterways. Participants learnt about sustainable regeneration of local aquifer recharge zones and how to improve the environmental health of the waterways near them. We consider the success of this project as TUF’s introduction as a leader in the burgeoning concept of “social hydrogeology”.
In 2021, to build on the successes of the workshops, TUF implemented a transformative art project by partnering with local artist SethOne to paint a series of art murals along the Lotus Canal. The designs of the murals were carefully thought out and were made to be relevant to the community. Thus, the murals have been proudly received by the community, with other community members asking when more can be done. The strong sense of community in the area opposite the ESNR, resulted in some residents, in particular, those who are also part of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) taking on the initiative of collecting water samples in the Lotus Canal for record keeping. The purpose of the sampling is to monitor the water and to determine the positive impact of their regular litter clean-ups and vegetation propagation on the banks of the Lotus Canal. TUF was asked by the ESNR to do a demonstration on water quality sampling in the Lotus Canal, showing some safety tips when sampling, as well as best practice sampling techniques.
As 2021 drew to a close, TUF, in collaboration with the International Association for Impact Assessments of South Africa (IAIAsa) and the ESNR, hosted environmental science and management students at the ESNR from various tertiary institutions. This was an educational, fun field trip for students in which they learnt about the importance of the Cape Flats Aquifer, Lotus Canal and the nature reserve and its associated challenges. Educational outreach events such as this can play an integral role in fostering an understanding of social responsibility concerning the environment and water resources.
Environmental education is one of the cornerstones of TUF’s work, whereby we provide accessible courses for community members to develop a greater understanding of the environment. Through participation in our educational programmes, participants are empowered and have the skills to mobilise within their own communities and become their champions for improving their environments.