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Augrabies Falls National Park
People & Conservation
- Environmental Education
- Youth Outreach
- Community Based Conservation
- Cultural Heritage Management
- Cultural Booklet
The People and Conservation (P&C) Department of Augrabies Falls National Park is very involved with educational work both inside and outside the park boundaries.
School groups from all over the Northern Cape visit Augrabies Falls during the year with some coming from even further a field. Visiting schools receive an educational programme which is adapted to their needs and the grades in question. Normally this involves a detailed presentation about all aspects of the park: the waterfall, wildlife, plants & trees, P&C and tourism. If suitable, a second, more detailed presentation will be given regarding a more specific subject such as snakes, scorpions and spiders. After these presentations learners are eager to head down to the waterfall to see for themselves what all the fuss is about! During this walk they will receive more information regarding the plants and animals which can be found around the waterfall area.
P&C staff is also involved in community outreach programmes by visiting local schools as often as possible, usually on special calendar days such as Water Day, Earth Day World Environment Day and National Arbor Week. The information and activities prepared for the learners will be concerned with the subject of that special day.
Due to the nature of the arid region it is very important for children to realize that water is a precious resource which cannot be wasted. Teaching them how to conserve water and letting them come up with ways in which they can decrease their water use is an important part of environmental education at Augrabies Falls.
Environmental Education also means bringing the message of conservation to the public especially to the surrounding communities of the park. Currently no environmental centre exists. If available the BMW Conference Centre (near the reception area) is utilised during holiday seasons as an educational interpretive centre for exhibiting of a collection of various rocks and minerals from the area as well as several animal skeletons and traditional tools used by the Nama people of the Northern Cape. Guided walks to the waterfall, a daily presentation and continuous nature documentaries are then available to visitors.
Currently our main focus for youth outreach lies with the establishment of an environmental club in the town of Augrabies. Young people from other nearby communities are eligible to join as well of course. The aim of this club is to provide fun and educational opportunities for local youth to involve them in environmental activities and create a sense of responsibility for their community.
Ideally this club would come together once or twice a month to participate in an activity related to an environmental topic, such as a community clean-up operation
Augrabies Falls National Park successfully completed the Community Water Efficiency Project (COWEP) in the community of Augrabies +/- 16 km from the park in 2006/7.
The Community Water Efficiency Project (COWEP) is a partnership programme between the South African National Parks (SANParks) and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), implemented in 2005 at three sites in two Arid Parks namely Namaqua National Park and Augrabies Falls National Park.
The SANParks/DWAF Community Water Efficiency Project (COWEP) went through two phases. Phase 1 included the training of 6 voluntary youth members and an awareness raising campaign in the community including learners at schools and adults at home until it was implemented between 28 August and 09 September 2005. This implementation included daily data recording twice a day by the 6 volunteer youth of the participating households’ water consumption.
The National Launch of COWEP attended by officials from both head offices of SANParks and DWAF, local government and other agency officials, as well as the local community including the learners and educators in the community hall of Augrabies in November 2005 was a highlight in this community.
Phase 1 of this project indeed had positive spin-offs. It provided the unique opportunity to build a constituency for co-operative governance and management of water resources in the rural communities residing in and around national parks; was a very visible programme; led to personal growth especially within the volunteers; and the community input established an ownership which strengthened relationships with the park.
Phase 2 of this project kicked off with the official report of the outcomes of phase 1 to the community of Augrabies and the local Kai Garib Municipality who had also supported this project from the start. During this phase scoping for gardening was done and even a door-to-door report back of the COWEP results to all participating households in the community of Augrabies took place.
In September 2006 the training of volunteer community members kicked off where the concept of permaculture which originated from the two terms, namely “permanent” and “agriculture” were well-introduced to the 22 debutant community members by outsourced Service Providers. The idea is that the human culture cannot exist without sustainable agriculture. Permaculture aims to design agriculture in such a way which will have the minimum negative results on the natural and human environments; rather work with nature instead of against it.
Intense but interesting theoretical presentations were delivered during two days, emphasising important themes such as: Ecology, Plants as translators of solar energy; Natural feeding- and water cycles; the principles and design of permaculture, etc. From days 3 tot 5 all took part in the reconstructing of the existed food garden of the Assumpta Primary School (Augrabies) into a new food garden based on the principles of permaculture of which the oldest member was 71 years old. A nursery was also established by the group.
This project in the community of Augrabies has now been completed with the food garden established to serve as an additional source of nourishment for the local primary school as well as to the broader community. The garden is currently managed by a group of motivated community members, who successfully harvest their own fresh crops. A second Community Water Efficiency Project will be initiated early in 2008/9 in one of the other communities neighbouring the park in order to promote efficient water use. The 6 voluntary youth were taken up in Nature Conservation Learnerships in the park from May 2006 to May 2007 which they completed successfully.
An extensive archaeological/historical study was presented in 2001 which covered large sections of the park as well as the surrounding areas. This findings of this massive research project concluded that the area is rich in prehistoric and more recent historic sites. Early, Middle and Late Stone Age sites were discovered in and around the national park with many artefacts and tools being discovered from these ancient times. Late Stone Age rock art has been discovered outside the park at Perdepoort near the community of Riemvasmaak.
Numerous San and Khoi graves have also been found in the park and the surrounding areas. It consists mostly of figurative art such as human figures as well as depictions of ostrich, giraffe, eland, hippo, gemsbok and zebra. Historical locations related to the first European settlers such as churches, quiver tree inscriptions and rock paintings dating back to the beginning of the 20th century are also important heritage sites in the area. One of the largest sites in the park is a Boer War fort called Manie Maritz se Fort, which was likely used by Boer General Maritz as a resupply station.
Every cultural heritage site, be it a small archaeological dig or a Boer War fort, is given a conservation status depending on their vulnerability and those located near trails or roads are often inspected if not protected by field rangers or (if located outside the park) tourism officials. It should be noted that nearly all cultural heritage sites are vulnerable and should never be touched or moved. While there are numerous sites within Augrabies Falls, most of them are not yet accessible to visitors.
Elders from the communities surrounding the park will be engaged, to find out more about their knowledge and culture. Stories from these people will also be recorded on paper as well as by dictaphone so that this information does not get lost. Interesting information e.g. beliefs, traditional food and religious issues will also be recorded and a pamphlet produced for interested visitors. This project is being undertaken by one of the conservation students from 2007.
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Did You Know?
- that the mission of national parks is to develop and manage a system of national parks that represents the biodiversity, landscapes, and associated heritage assets of SA for the sustainable use and benefit of all.
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