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Charity of the Month: African Conservation Trust (ACT)

DW’s debuting Charity of the Month is the African Conservation Trust (ACT) in South Africa.

The ACT is a registered not-for-profit organisation which is responsible for the implementation of various projects in and around Southern Africa, with a vision of a world which invests in its most precious asset: Planet Earth, to ensure that all its inhabitants are not simply surviving, but flourishing.

DW Online chatted with Carl Grossman, the present Chairman of the African Conservation Trust. Carl is an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (London, UK). He is a Past President of the Rotary Club of Hillcrest, District 9270. He is also a member of the International Association for Impact Assessment South Africa (2855) and the South African Council for Professional Land Surveyors and Technical Surveyors (ST288). He is also the sole owner of C & F Expeditions CC, a specialist NGO consultancy based in Durban.

Carl holds a National Diploma in Surveying from Technikon Natal and a Masters degree in Environment and Development from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg.  Over the years he has been involved in many research projects as well as conceiving, fundraising and implementing environmental and heritage related projects. Carl also recently received his National Pilots License and has been assisting the Project Rhino KZN aerial surveillance team in their anti-poaching efforts in Northern KZN. His expertise is a valuable asset to the mission of the African Conservation Trust.

DW: So Carl, what is the ACT’s mission?

Carl: ACT’s mission is to conduct, implement and facilitate pioneering environmental, heritage and conservation projects in Southern Africa in a financially accountable and sustainable manner.

CA training project German EmbassyDW: What does ‘Food Security’ mean to the ACT?

Carl: ACT aligns itself to the definition of food security that is used by the World Health Organisation, which is that ‘Food security means that all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.’

DW: What is the Agro-Ecological Farming practice training course?

Carl: The Agro-Ecological Farming Practices Course is an accredited South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 2 course that aims to teach the fundamentals of conservation agriculture. Conservation agriculture is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil’s structure, composition and natural biodiversity.

DW: Who is the course for and what are the benefits?

Carl: The course is for anyone who is interested in conservation agriculture and developing their own food garden. It has proven to be particularly beneficial to rural farmers who live in remote and harsh environments as the practices have shown to increase agricultural yields, produce crops that are more resilient to changing weather conditions, improve water usage and reduce soil erosion. The benefits of conservation agriculture are the production of nutritious organic crops, reduced water usage, minimal input costs, improved soil quality and reduced impact on the environment.

DW: Do you think Education plays an important role in putting an end to poverty?

Carl: A number of factors contribute to poverty and therefore it needs to be addressed holistically. Education does however have a critical role to play in the fight against poverty as it is essential for empowering individuals, promoting equality and building the foundations for self sufficiency.  The greater the education, the greater the choices available to an individual.

DW: What is the bio-diesel project?

Carl: ACT implemented a Biofuel and Food Security Pilot Project in Northern Zululand in 2010. The project is in an area that is severely affected by climate change, soil erosion, overgrazing and widespread food insecurity. It is a long-term project with many facets that aim to build a foundation for a large-scale bio-diesel plant pioneering the use of an indigenous tree (Pappea capensis) as fuel source. The production of Biodiesel will begin once the trees begin producing fruit. The seed of the fruit will be separated, roasted and crushed to extract the oil, which will then be processed to produce Biodiesel. Biodiesel will be stored in a storage tank to be used by the local community for power generation. The project also incorporated permaculture and sustainable farming training to ensure food self-sufficiency within the local community.

The project has to date resulted in the repair of the local community’s broken boreholes and provision of water tanks for rainwater harvesting. The rainwater harvesting system collects approximately 400 000L of water yearly and provides water for the project and community; alleviating the critical shortage of water in the area. Permaculture and sustainable farming training was given to community members and food tunnels were established. Organic vegetables grown in the tunnels are sold to the community and donated to local schools. The project also supplies the surrounding communities with seedlings.

Biofarm project

DW: Tell us about your other Food Security projects?

Carl: ACT implemented two Rainwater Harvesting and Food Tunnels projects in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which support 25 schools and 16 pre-schools; benefiting around 20 000 pupils each year. The schools were provided with rain water tanks, drip irrigation systems, vegetable shade houses, seedlings and indigenous fruit trees. Local community members were employed in tunnel construction teams, and agricultural students from Mangosuthu University of Technology, University of Zululand and the Owen Sithole College of Agriculture received one year in-service training, which assisted them to complete their studies and gain work experience. The agricultural students provided assistance to the local community members who were employed by the project.

ACT also received funding from the German Federal Foreign Office in 2012 to train 16 individuals to become trainers in conservation agriculture practices. The trainers came from the communities living south of the Somkhanda Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal. During the project, the trainers underwent an NQF Level 2 course in Agro-Ecological Farming Practices and were mentored in the development of homestead food gardens making use of conservation agriculture practices. This resulted in improved nutrition and food security for the target homesteads and has assisted with reducing pressure on biodiversity in the area, as well as on the boundary of the reserve.

DW: What has been come of the positive outcomes of the ACT’s projects?

Carl: In the last five years, ACT projects have resulted in numerous achievements. These include the;

  • The training and mentoring of rural farmers in conservation agriculture practices and rainwater harvesting practices
  • Planting of indigenous trees
  • Facilitation of the delineation of community conservation areas in the Drakensberg
  • The rehabilitation of valuable Mountain Rivers and catchments
  • The reduction of soil erosion in the KZN Drakensberg
  • The removal of alien invasive plant species from the Drakensberg area
  • Environmental education and biodiversity awareness building
  • The creation of the first digital archive of Drakensberg San Rock Art
  • Increased protection of indigenous plant and endangered animal species, including the Black Rhino and Jozini Cycad
  • The Improvement of food and water security in rural areas of Northern KZN that are severely affected by climate change, soil erosion and overgrazing

DSCN0470

DW: How can our readers get involved?

Carl: In response to the escalating threat to South Africa’s black and white rhino populations from organised poaching syndicates, ACT ran its successful Skydive for Rhino’s campaign in 2012 to raise funds for four major national rhino anti-poaching strategies. The nation-wide campaign was a huge success and resulted in 400+ jumpers skydiving from 4 sites around the country raising R6.6 million. The funds raised have been used for aerial surveillance, advanced training for game reserve staff, the provision of equipment for rhino anti-poaching units (APUs) and community intervention programmes.

ACT was a founding member and continues to act as the Secretariat of Project Rhino KZN – an association of organisations involved in rhino conservation in the province who have agreed to collaborate on rhino conservation initiatives and work collectively to counteract the growing poaching threats in both public and private game reserves. Readers can get involved in the fight against rhino poaching at – http://www.projectrhinokzn.org/

To find out more about the African Conservation Trust and all the great work they do, or to donate now, follow the link http://www.projectafrica.com/

Special thanks to Carl Grossman from the African Conservation Trust for taking the time to speak with us, and congratulations on being DW’s first ever Charity of the Month!

 

written by Victoria Garside

About Victoria Garside