The story of N/a’an ku sê

The story of N/a’an ku sê

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I will never be the same, how can I? How can I carry on with my mediocre life, not really making a noticeable difference in anyone else’s, knowing now that there is such a huge need, having felt the joy of being a part of something so special, and so desperately needed?

As I write this post with tears in my eyes, I can honestly say I wish I didn’t have to come back, that I could stay there forever, that I could be a part of that family for the rest of my days.

I decided to do a two part post about this wonderful place. In this post I will give you guys a little bit of background on how it all started and what their ultimate goal and mission is, I will essentially be sharing the vision that Marlice and Rudi had when they took up this project.

I believe they were inspired to take action and make a real difference after a horrible incident one night involving a very sick little San Bushman girl. They realised that there were no real and reliable medical centre for the San people within 100km radius. And so the life line clinic came to life, but they soon realised that there were so many more pressing issues and decided right there and then that they would devote their lives to bettering the circumstances of these people. But the challenges did not start and end with the San people.

Both Dr. Rudi and Marlice van Vuuren have always had a great love for nature and an even bigger respect for their environment. This integrated well with the work already up and running in the community and soon N/a’an ku sê was born. It allowed them the opportunity to care for the San community by assisting them with work opportunities, caring for the animals, and preserving the very fragile ecosystem they find themselves in. This sanctuary also provided them with a prime opportunity for the research and development of new techniques and methods for predator control in a bid to end the human-animal conflict situation.

Since the 2006 the N/a’an ku sê family has grown into a diverse and committed group of individuals and sponsors that all have one goal in mind, to preserve, protect, and ensure a sustainable future where both man and nature could live together in harmony.

Unlike some of its neighbours, Namibia has very strict laws regarding wildlife and breeding in captivity. It is also very important to the sanctuary to be a beacon of hope for these endangered species, and they strive to run a sustainable and ethical organisation.

An integral part of the sanctuary and its future are the volunteers, not only do they contribute to the much needed financial side of running such an organisation, but more importantly, they volunteer their time, effort, love and care to these animals and the community. They have various comprehensive programs across a number of sites in Namibia, where you will get the chance to take part in food preparation for the animals at the sanctuary, get to spend quality time with the o-so-adorable little baboons, be part of the bigger baboon family, or you might even be able to join in a snake catching expedition with the very capable and experienced resident snake-man Francoise. And if you are more of a people’s person, you can always volunteer at the lifeline clinic or at the pre-school.

They also have research sites were you will get a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of most vital part of the whole operation. They do ground breaking research on cheetahs, leopards, jackal, wild dogs and elephants to name a few.

While I was there I met the most amazing group of people, from the co-ordinators and my fellow volunteers to Marlice and Rudi themselves, all seem to have the same goal and mission in mind, to serve and protect the indigenous wildlife, people and ecosystems of Namibia. During my stay I had the privilege of taking care of one of the little orphaned baboons called Christa, the moment I looked into her twinkly little brown eyes I fell in love. I realised then that this is what I was made to do, and I had to do more of it, at whatever cost.

My goal with these posts aren’t to announce to the world of my missions for me, but rather to spread the word of these wonderful organisations, the more people that know the better, and if I inspire just one other person I will have accomplished my goal. We can make a difference, never assume your part in it all is too small, it starts with one step, one volunteer, one initiative.

 

 

5 ways you could help the bees through this drought

5 ways you could help the bees through this drought

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South Africa is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in 20 years and it has certainly taken its toll on all ecosystems. One hears stories of animals that have to be culled in order to prevent a crisis of starvation and overgrazing. Even our little lemon tree at home is looking pretty bleak. A lot of our plants have not bloomed yet, and the ones that have’s blossoms are much smaller than usual and don’t last as long.

This is affecting all pollinators, and while many people are putting out bird feeders and have bird baths in their gardens, we often forget about the silent heroes, the BEES.  It seems that even amongst beekeepers there are some conflicting opinions on what the best practice might be. I have compiled a very short list of five things you could do that might save a whole colony of bees.

Put out some water for them, we here is South Africa can definitely testify of the rising global temperatures. Seeing as we are supposed to be in spring but is already experiencing temperatures in the 30°C region, I am assuming we will have another record breaking scorching summer. Bees generally have to work very hard during the summer months to regulate the temperature in the hives. When fresh, clean water is not easily available they might wonder off to the neighbour’s swimming pool, which might be catastrophic for them. Providing a close, clean and fresh water supply will help them cool off the core of the hive without having to fly too far for it. They also use the water to dilute the honey for the newBEES. It is important to know that once you’ve started to put out water for them you’ll have to keep it up, they are creatures of habit and will quickly start to depend on your source of water.

Planting drought savvy plants, it’s not too late to start. Bees will need to have nectar sources for much longer seeing as the amount of nectar on the flowers are so much less than usual because of the drought. A lot of succulent species will have flowers until late summer, and are great soldiers in a drought. Certain herb types such as lavender, sage, thyme, and rosemary will all be able to withstand the drought, more than others in any case, plus you get the added bonus of the wonderful aromas filling your garden and fresh herbs on demand. Most wildflowers are naturally drought resistant and makes for a beautiful and colourful garden at the same time.

Shade, this might be more relevant to beekeepers than laymen looking out for wild bees. By providing shade for the hive you will help to keep it cooler and they won’t have to work so hard, foragers can focus more of their energy and time on collecting nectar and less on collecting water to cool the hive. On the other hand I would also suggest that you put the water source in shade, thereby decreasing the amount of water that is evaporated by the scorching sun.

Harvest less honey, if you are a beekeeper it would be wise to harvest less honey than usual. It might seem that there is enough, or maybe even more than enough, but seeing as we do not know when the drought will end and how much nectar they will be able to collect before winter comes, it might be a good idea to let them store more of the honey. If you have more than one hive you could also keep a brood box frame, to transfer honey between the hives if  you see that one might not be producing enough.

This last point is somewhat of a controversial one, artificially feeding the bees. Many experts have conflicting opinions on this matter. Personally I have come to realise that in the long run it has more disadvantages than what it’s worth. Having said that, I also feel that in extreme circumstances, where it is a case of the bees literally starving or you feeding them, I would be in favour of it.  It is however, a very delicate thing and there are a number of factors to take into account. Firstly, it is imperative that you only use white refined sugar for your mixture, you can make a mixture of water and sugar, a ratio of 1:1 or 1 sugar: 2 water. Remember to put this mixture in a shallow plate or bowl and to put some pebbles or rocks that will stick out above the mixture, to allow the bees to gather the mixture without getting some of it onto their bodies or wings, which will subsequently lead to drowning. I have also read about people putting out a pollen supplement for the bees.

Just remember that whether you are putting out water or some form of a feeding station you might attract some unwanted predators in the process. Always keep an eye out for any signs that your bees are being robbed or killed, chances are something is luring the predators.

Alternatives to poisonous pesticides and insecticides

Alternatives to poisonous pesticides and insecticides

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So spring has sprung and the fruit trees are in full bloom, but what to do about those pesky insects that ruin just about all the fruit before they are even ripe and ready for you to enjoy?

If you are lucky enough to have at least one fruit tree in your garden you will know about the very real tragedy of watching them grow for several weeks only to find them ruined by fruit flies and/or other insects and birds by the time they are ready to eat. So if you are looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to those poisonous pesticides and insecticides you should keep reading because I’ll be listing a few of my favourites.

Before you decide on your method you should take note that there are good and bad insects, some insects are actually necessary in your garden and their presence is needed for a beautiful flourishing garden. These are insects that pollinate, and/or feast on other pests and insects. Be careful when using any form of insecticide or pesticide as it may also kill or repel the good insects.

Lime sulphur and dormant oil witch can usually be bought at nurseries, it can be sprayed onto the trunks and branches of dormant fruit trees; this suffocates and kills any insect eggs. Make sure that you only spray this on dormant trees as it can kill the tree.

You can also make your own dormant oil to spray onto the trees by mixing 1 cup vegetable oil and 2 table spoons liquid soap (like sunlight) in 4 litres of water. Shake well before and during use. This spray will unfortunately also kill the good insects, so make sure you only spray it on the affected plants and trees, and rather do it early in the morning or just before dark.

Help nature take its course, Praying Mantis fall under the category of good insects mentioned before, they consume most other garden insects and will so doing help you control your insect problem. You can actually buy Praying Mantis eggs from an online catalogue.

Lady bugs, there is a reason people say they bring good luck. They consume aphids, mites, whiteflies, and scale. You can either buy them from a catalogue online or lure them to your garden by planting daisies, tansies, or yarrows.

Birds can also wreak havoc in fruit trees; one option is to literally cover the canopy with fine mesh bird netting. Make sure that it is not tied too tightly, giving the fruit and the trees enough room to grow. Also do daily checks to make sure the fruit is not pressing against the mesh, or that there aren’t any holes in the mesh because the birds will eat through the holes.

This might sound cruel, but placing a rubber snake in a tree can also scare off most curious creatures including birds.

Anything reflective, you can either hang old cd’s in the tree, or long strips of flash tape, or even suspend reflective aluminium items from the branches.

None of these methods will physically hurt the birds and it might save some of those juicy fruit for you to enjoy when the time comes. Remember that birds need to eat, and placing bird feeders around the garden (away from your fruit trees) might actually also be beneficial to both parties, if they are able to get food easily from one place it might lure them away from you fruit trees.

Important to note that a study based on the USDA and FDA testing data, the fruit and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue are:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines (Imported)
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes
Consequences of our Acidic Oceans

Consequences of our Acidic Oceans

Consequences of our Acidic Oceans

As we all know there’s been a rapid increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as a direct consequence of our way of life, burning fossil fuels for our primary source of electricity. This has had many negative effects on the earth and all environments around us. Trees are a great roll player in the photosynthesis process whereby they turn the CO2 in the air into breathable oxygen for all living creatures, and while the recent drives to plant trees and stop deforestation are great and should be continued, it is should not be our only concern in searching for a solution for the quest to decrease CO2. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere every year.

The ocean is absorbing about half of the man-made CO2 that is in the air.  Carbonic acid is what is formed when CO2 is absorbed in the ocean, thus resulting in Ocean Acidification.

The acidification of the ocean has many effects, not only on the ocean species but on a global scale as well. Did you know that the zooplankton in the ocean is responsible for producing most of the earth’s oxygen?

Coral reefs are also an integral part of the ocean’s balance, not only do they provide shelter for millions of little creatures but they also provide food for many of them. The increase in the acid levels is significantly reducing the ability of reef-building corals to produce their skeletons.

Have you ever heard of Pteropods? Better known as the sea’s butterflies, they are also a major food source for many different species underwater, but most importantly to the North Pacific juvenile salmon. By 2100 these Pteropods will have literally slowly dissolved, if the acidity level keeps rising at the current rate.

It is also affecting shelled organisms, and as a result the entire underwater food web. The fact is that there are limited information and research available on this topic, but scientists all agree on one thing, and that is that the changes in the chemistry of the ocean can only lead to catastrophe, and we need to act as fast as possible if we want to prevent it from happening.

Globally over a billion people depend directly or indirectly on the ocean for their primary source of subsidence. Do you know that burning 1 ton of coal emits 2.86 tonnes of CO2, it is estimated that in 2011 the U.S alone emitted about 1.87 billion tonnes of CO2.

Now is the time to seriously consider renewably energy sources like wind and solar. The prices of renewable energy solutions are currently at an all-time low and it is more affordable now than ever before. It is time that the countries that signed the Paris agreement all stand together and reach realistic ways in which to reach their goals, I believe the answer is in government funded renewable energy plants, instead of building new coal plants, yes a wind or solar energy plant may be more expensive initially, but if the running costs were to be considered, they quickly seem more and more viable. There is no coal to mine, or buy, minimal waste and footprint on its environment.

What is your standpoint on coal vs renewable energy?

The truth about palm oil

The truth about palm oil

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Palm oil is one of those products that mainly pass by without you knowing it, even though it is included in a vast range of products that most people use every day. Many people do not know that it is also a large contributor to the alarming rate of deforestation of the already ailing rainforests that remain throughout Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and the likes. In many of these communities where these plantations are established small children are forced to do physical labour for long hours in horrific conditions. The big corporations funding these expeditions also lie, cheat and steal their way onto ground that belongs to the indigenous people with their empty promises of development and a better life for all. Many families are dumped into extreme poverty because they can no longer sustain themselves from their own land is forced to become plantation workers, not even earning enough to provide the basics for their families.

With deforestation also comes the endangerment of over 300 000 species of different animals, insects and plants across many ecosystems. Orang-utans are one example of a species that could be extinct in 10 years if their numbers continue to decrease at the currents rate. This endangerment is not only due to their habitat that is shrinking each day, but by the increase in poaching and black market trading of rare species that these foreigners bring with them.

Not to confuse coconut oil with palm oil. Palm oil can generally be found in products such as shampoo, lipstick, instant noodles, ice cream, margarine, detergents, and alarmingly, biofuels. It is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world at the moment, contributing about half of the vegetable oil used in America, Australia and England, and its use is expected to double by 2050.

The ripple effect of deforestation, poverty and endangerment that is left in its wake cannot be ignored any longer. There may be hope, it was estimated that about 18% of the world’s palm oil was certified as sustainable in 2014, even though there has been widespread controversy around this topic. The fact is that oil palm trees are capable of yielding more oil from less land than any other vegetable oil, if it is controlled and regulated properly.

Ever heard of the Tiger Challenge? Companies that have agreed to make use of sustainable sources of palm oil, which is tiger and forest friendly are;

  • Procter & Gamble
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Ferrero
  • General Mills
  • Godrej
  • Johnson & Johnsons
  • Kao
  • Kellog’s
  • Libay
  • L’Oréal
  • Mondelēz International
  • Nestlé
  • Nice Group
  • PepsiCo
  • Reckitt Benckiser
  • Unilever

Think twice before you purchase a product, make sure you know where they get their resources from, and that you are not unknowingly contributing to the destruction of our precious rainforests. Make informed decisions.

For more information you can visit:

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/

http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/palm_oil/

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/Campaign-reports/Forests-Reports/Cutting-Deforestation-Out-Of-Palm-Oil/

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/how-unilever-palm-oil-supplier/

What does it take to live a sustainable life?

What does it take to live a sustainable life?

What does it being sustainable really mean- (2)

Sustainable, green living and clean energy are all words that are trending right now, but what do they really mean? Truly living in a sustainable way is much more than just installing a solar geyser, which is still a great idea by the way. Green living requires a shift in mind set, habits, and perspective. Truly understanding why it is important is the first step, and probably the most important.

We as humans have, for many decades, over indulged in all that mother nature has to offer, we have driven species to extinction, set off a ripple effect starting with greenhouse gasses and globing warming, and taken earth’s ability to ‘bounce back’ for granted. But it is not too late for us to right our wrongs, and people need to realise that the sooner we start the better.

The first step in making a lifestyle shift to one that is more eco-friendly and sustainable is to realise that there are many luxuries that we can do without. Once we realise that we do not need to water our lawns and gardens every single day, for example, or that we do not need to heat the whole house in winter time, but rather just the rooms we are using at the moment, we will start to see how we have lived wastefully.

Step two is just as important, it is where we must realise the full extent of the effects that our way of life has on our environment. Many people are in denial over global warming and its effects, what makes it worse is that people of influence that feel they should express their uninformed opinions publically. Ignoring and denying it will not make it go away, people need to realise this is a real issue, and that our own quality of life will get a lot worse if we do not act now.

Lastly it is crucial that we act on it right away, the sooner we start making changes to decrease our carbon footprint and the effect on nature, the better our chances are to turn this runaway bus around. Making sustainable life choices means that we are ensuring a future for many generations to come; we are saving and re-using our resources, protecting and conserving all life forms (fauna, flora, oceans, and humanity).

For me the goal has always been to not live wastefully, to use only what I absolutely need and leave the rest for the next person, the future. Over the years I have picked up some skills from experience, and learned some tricks from others. Follow the link for my post on how to be more sustainable.