Environmental action based on nonviolence

Crispin Hemson, ICON Director, has set up a short internship programme for five youth leaders. Over a three week period they are visiting areas of environmental importance, and each intern will develop a project to put to work what they have learnt.

Interns working on alien clearing next to Pigeon Valley in Glenwood: Mfanafuthi Shinga, Nobuhle Kakhe, Kizito Takawira, Mfanelo Ntombela and Sbo Mkhize

‘In this work we are focusing on the links between the physical environment and the social issues at stake. Our approach is to focus strongly on the people we are working with, and to ensure that the relationships that develop around environmental work are formed on the basis of ubuntu and nonviolence,’ said Crispin Hemson, who is also the chairperson of the Durban branch of WESSA, the South African environmental organisation. ‘This may sound idealistic, but in reality many projects fail because of in-fighting and competition, and there are specific things we can do to form a different basis for work. And linking technology with people is an important element requiring the full involvement of local people.’
One of the areas visited has been Ntuzuma, where the interns are linking with the Ntuzuma Primary Co-op, led by Paulos Gwala. This group is organising the development of land around streams for vegetable gardening, with indigenous trees and shrubs to protect the stream and steep slopes. At present some of the local streams are so polluted that the water cannot be used to water the plants, so there is a major educational task to be done to ensure that the gardens are viable.