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A City Parks unit focuses on bringing environmental awareness to the citizens of Joburg. Conservation issues are at the forefront of efforts.
ENVIRONMENT and conservation are top of the agenda at Johannesburg City Parks, which has a unit dedicated to raising awareness of these issues.

 

Dorothy Nyembe environmental education centreThe Dorothy Nyembe environmental education centre offers environmental education awareness programmesIts environmental education (EE) unit, which was established in 2002, engages with more than 28 000 learnersa year to teach them about the importance of creating a healthier environment.
 

Sinah Magolo, the manager of the EE unit, says its aim is to nurture a greater sense of ownership of the environment; enhance the user experience of public open spaces, which include parks and nature reserves; educate learners about the importance of developing a sustainable environment; and lobby support for environmental programmes in Joburg.

“The EE unit is focused on reaching as many residents of Johannesburg as possible with the message that we need to change the way we are living today, if we wish to leave a healthier environment for our children in the future,” she says.

It has three core focus areas. Firstly, the unit invites school groups from all backgrounds to attend education awareness programmes at either of three environmental centres – the Dorothy Nyembe Environmental Education Centre in Soweto, the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens Environmental Education Centre in Emmarentia and the Rietfontein Environmental Education Centre in Paulshof.

These programmes deal with a wide range of environmental issues, from curriculum-based topics like animal classification, through waste and water to biodiversity issues. They are “interactive, educational and fun for the learners” says Magolo.

At the Rietfontein Nature Reserve, learners are taken on a trail and introduced to the rich and diverse plant and animal life in the region.

The unit’s second focus area is specifically community based, with numerous awareness raising programmes that directly address the environmental issues found in the specific ward in which the unit works. Examples of this include illegal dumping and wetland degradation.

Co-ordination and implementation of mass awareness environment day programmes are part of this focus. These include World Environment Day, Arbor Week and Water Week, to name a few.

Food gardens
The unit’s final area of focus involves capacity building. This is achieved by empowering people to take action within their communities to better their environment. It includes training and encouraging people to care for their environment. Projects include greening programmes and food gardens with feeding schemes at schools, among others.

 

A food garden in Orange farmA food garden in Orange farmThe unit has achieved several successes:
 

In partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, it has successfully implemented NQF level five environmental education training and development learnership programmes for two consecutive years. In the 2009/10 financial year, it achieved a 100 percent pass rate;
In partnership with the South African Biodiversity Institute, it has established 25 indigenous gardens in Johannesburg primary schools;
With financial support from Engen Petroleum, it has established 11 vegetable gardens in schools;
Each year, it celebrates eight environmental theme days and weeks – Wetlands Day, Water Week, Earth Day, Bird Week, Biodiversity Day, Environment Week, Arbour Week and River Monitoring Day – and on these days it implements projects that leave a legacy, such as tree planting, establishing vegetable gardens, water audits and water monitoring competitions, among others;
The unit has developed and implemented environmental education awareness programmes and projects such as the celebration of environmental theme days, school and holiday programmes, environmental exhibitions and employee capacity building programmes on best practices; and
It has successfully implemented tree education and awareness programmes in communities and schools, which has resulted in fewer cases of vandalism of trees, especially of those planted in public amenities such as schools.
Magolo says that in the future, it hopes to:

Publish environmental education resource materials developed by the unit with institutions such as Wildlife Society of South Africa (Wessa) and Sharenet;
Establish environmental education satellite centres in remote areas such as Ivory Park, Diesploot, Lenasia and Orange Farm;
Develop an environmental information centre in Soweto;
Reach more beneficiaries; and
Work closely with communities to regionalise its programmes and projects through community structures such as ward committees, community-based organisations and NGOs.
For more information about the programmes at Rietfontein, call Nicole or Israel on 011 803 9300 or visit the City Parks website.

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