Restoring Wetlands in Namaqualand

Children play in Leliefontein's newly-restored natural spring.

The Walt Disney Company recently selected CI’s Restoring Wetlands in Namaqualand project to be a recipient of funding from Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green. First place gets $100,000, so tell the kids in your life to vote today at – and have them help us spread the word! Below, Tessa Mildenhall of Conservation South Africa – a CI affiliate – highlights some of her team’s activities in Namaqualand.

It’s 93 degrees Fahrenheit in Cape Town today, another scorcher. Thank goodness we are going out to Leliefontein, a community high up in the Kamiesberg Mountains and, at only 90 degrees, the coolest place to be in Namaqualand. Three degrees doesn’t seem like much, but on a hot day it makes a huge difference.

We’re headed to Leliefontein to tag livestock in order to monitor the number of animals grazing on the veld (grasslands). Because there is so little rainfall here — only about 9.5 inches [24 centimeters] this year — the plants can only provide enough food for one goat per 15 hectares [37 acres] of land. In this part of the country, scientists predict that eventually our climate will change; an estimated three-degree increase in temperatures here could mean that we will lose some animal and plant species forever.

In order to prepare for hotter temperatures and conserve water, CI is working closely with local communities in Namaqualand to repair broken water pumps and restore natural ecosystems. With working pumps, farmers are able to move their herds around and thereby reduce the stress on the wetland areas.

In Leliefontein, a recent project revealed the positive impacts that restoring ecosystems can have on communities. We’ve trained local volunteers to remove invasive species like poplar trees, which use up large amounts of groundwater from the wetland, replacing them with native vegetation that will help the land store water and restore the ecosystem to its natural state. The simple act of removing these trees has resulted in a now plentiful supply of spring water to the community of Leliefontein — free of charge. The restored water source proved its value recently when the municipal supply was cut off for more than three weeks in the sweltering heat of summer. If not for the wetland, community members would have had to walk for three days to reach the closest water source, and even then they would only be able to carry one bucket of water — less than we usually use to flush the toilet three times a day.

An added benefit of restoring this spring is that the town now has an outside venue to hold their Sunday church services. The invasive trees have been transformed into pews, and the spring now flows right next to the new churchyard pulpit — the perfect place to seek refuge from the heat with my colleagues on a day like today.

Tessa Mildenhall is the communications and operations manager for Conservation South Africa, the local affiliate of CI. Vote for the Namaqualand wetlands project at Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green website.


  1. Kasereka says

    Dear sir/Madam,
    This is to request you to accept our partnership and collaboration with your office in order to foster sustainable development in the Rwenzori region.
    Rwenzori Mountains Development Association (REMODA) is an NGO which was started to uplift the living standards of the rural and urban communities.
    REMODA is engaged in the following activities:
    Environmental conservation (wildlife, flora and fauna, Nature walk, Nature center)
    Sustainable Agriculture, (for Agro-Tourism, Beekeeping Development)
    Ecotourism and Tourism services.
    Appropriate technology, (Improved stoves, Biogas/Biomas, Micro-Hydro power generations)
    Human Rights and Good Governance ( Rights of the community members).
    Health services (Water and sanitation, HIV/ Aids awareness).
    For this matter therefore on behalf of Rwenzori Mountains Development Association and on my own behalf I wish to request you to send us your guidelines, creteria and application forms so that we may foster sustainable development in the Rwenzori region mainly around the protected Areas which caters for our wildlife to reduce poaching as we train the communities on the same. and we make awareness about environmental policies to promote nature conservation that may reduce green house emissions which is bringing climate change we are encouraging the communities to stop deforestation and degradation of nature Areas.Diodiversity should be taken into consideration and should be utilized of self need as we need to work hand in hand to restore natural Areas such as forests rivers ,mangroves, oceans to reduce emissions to help adapt climate change. Like on record of the world conservation Union, about 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and over 2 billion people depend on burning wood, plants and animals wastes for cooking and hearting,
    The world poor also needs more energy which is healthy, reliable and sustainable as it is well known that energy supply both depend on ecosystems such as forests, rivers and oceans, we need those that may work without depending on our natural biodiversity. There is need to mobilize the communities to plant more trees to promote environmental conservation. There is need to put awareness in the communities so that Government, people should fully understand that nature conservation and the future of the people are inextricably linked well and there is need to work with farmers and fisheries and other development sector to better manage natural environment and provide cost effective solutions for food security for helping the poor. There should be a dialogue promotion to reduce conflict over natural resources which helps to maintain peace in post conflict Areas which works with humanitarian organizations to make sure that environmental concerns are considered in relief efforts so that we may conserve for the future generations to come. May you see our REMODA profile attached
    Hoping for your positive response
    Yours sincerely,
    Kasereka J.Muranga
    Executive Director,
    Rwenzori Mountains Development Association (REMODA)
    P.O.BOX 268 Kasese Uganda
    Tel +256-772-662374 ,

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