Sitting at my desk enjoying a wonderful side-on view of the valley and bush clad hills beyond, is a treat. Yesterday’s welcome rain has brought greenery and a cool washed look to the previously parched and dry veld. The tinkling sound of the running water through the solar flow forms helps to restore the water balance.
My input on the main TRC site over the past few months has focused on maintenance, including the sewerage systems, water heaters, de-kalking system, and ceiling repairs. Much of my energy has been going into the finishing of my new home over the hill. And of course all of the endless paper work needed to keep TRC going.
Community work has included the sad but inevitable fading out of the Tirisano crèche, which has run for over 14 years for the local children. It finally closed its doors at the end of September because Maria, the main helper, relocated to a full time community support job in Zeerust, and Rebecca, the other helper, left to have a baby. The few children left in the community made it unfeasible to keep the crèche open.
I have had a meeting with some representatives of the community in Rietvaly who requested I visit to see if we can assist with helping them to start a crèche. They say there are at least 40 young children hanging around with little to do, and some mothers keen to help. My next meeting with a more representative group is happening this week. It will be interesting to see what ideas they have as it will need to be a community-driven initiative if it is to be at all sustainable.
Our help with the relocation of the Modibate community is slowly continuing. There seems to be greater motivation amongst the remaining people to want to move to their own houses/stands. Several factors which may be driving this could be because most of the older, influential community members have already moved, there is no more regular taxi service to the nearest town of Zeerust anymore, and there are not so many drinking companions around.
The ex-community members are mostly moving to three settlements: Zeerust, Rietvaly and Groot Marico. The most ambitious have headed to Sandvlakte on the outskirts of Zeerust. Some now have RDP houses and other houses are being built. All the stands have water and electricity, and there are slightly more job opportunities in Zeerust.
The most popular place for relocation is Rietvaly, a once thriving slate quarrying community. Now with nothing but closed quarries, piles of slate waste and almost no work prospects. There is one reasonable size shop, many spaza shops, and a regular taxi service to Zeerust. Once children reach school going age they are bussed, free of charge, to a distant school which they attend as day scholars. In Rietvaly they are allocated good sized stands, there is sufficient water, but they have to contribute to the fuel for the borehole pumps. Most of the stands have free electricity. There was apparently a message on the local radio a few weeks ago telling people in the area that the government will be building RDP houses there soon, but people have heard this story many times before pre election.
For those people wishing to relocate or who have relocated to the nearby village of Groot Marico, it is a far more dismal situation as there are no roads, there is still no water in the area where they have stands, and it is a long walk to fetch water.
Thanks to funding mainly received from Rokpa International and the 21 Taras project, we do at least 2 trips a week taking out furniture, chopped wood, and building materials from demolished shacks to the sites of the new houses. We are also providing some basic building materials and other equipment such as wheelbarrows for carrying water.
The whole process is likely to still be some years – it will take as long as it takes!
On the larger area environmental scene the big news was the granting of the Marico Unesco Biosphere Reserve. with the celebrations held in Groot Marico last month. This is the culmination of many years of work by many people. Initially MCA (Marico Conservation Association) started the campaign, which then morphed into MRCA ( Marco River Conservation Association), and more latterly in partnership with the North West Parks Board and READ. These have been well funded and staffed organizations.
I have been involved with the process from its inception, representing TRC, and we have benefited directly from one of their activities involving the removal of alien trees. The Marico Biosphere Reserve would not have been proclaimed if the South African recognized ‘protected area’ status had not been granted. TRC is part of the core zone Protected Environment. We have fairly strict guidelines as to what we can and can’t do on our land, and theoretically no prospecting or mining can happen. However recently a prospecting license has been granted in another Protected Area, which is being legally contested.
The other very active organization receiving little recognition and no formal financial support is Mmutlwa wa Noko (the Porcupine Quill) of which I am a committee member, representing TRC. It is run by two extremely skilled and dedicated environmental warriors, Jeanne and Brian. They have been working tirelessly for over 8 years challenging prospecting and mining right applications in the area on both legal and environmental grounds.
During this period they successfully opposed four applications against giant organisations, including African Nickel, Samrec and Sanral. They are presently involved in a legal challenge in the High Court, Pretoria, against the granting of Environmental Authorisation for the purposes of prospecting to De Beers in the Marico river catchment within the newly declared Marico Biosphere Reserve. Without these victories the Marico Biosphere Reserve would not exist in its current location or be the size it is now. For more information see their website and their facebook page.
Tara Rokpa Centre – a place of healing
The late Chöje Akong Rinpoche said we should put ‘Caring for the environment’ on our Tara Rokpa Centre logo , because environment includes all physical nature, and sentient beings within and around it, all interconnected. All of us committed to this vision are doing all we can to fulfill this vision in many ways, both on site and off site, with the wish that the centre will continue to exist to heal in many ways all who come here, or who support the centre from a distance.