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Lunchtime seminar, lecture and tutorial – Gauteng Province, South Africa

June 2014 - On Tuesday 24 June, Caradee Wright and Karen Nortje travelled to the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health.

They gave a lunchtime seminar on the Lower Olifants project.

Karen also gave a lecture to the Rural Health Masters students, and the session concluded with a tutorial in which three case studies were discussed.

Community and stakeholders meetings – Limpopo Province, South Africa

June 2014 - Several team members went to Lepelle and Botshabelo, Limpopo Province, South Africa, to meet with the community and key stakeholders.

They shared the results of the study, as well as a poster with a local game and playing cards. These carried the main messages from the project: 'healthy environment, healthy life' and suggested steps taken by locals themselves on how best to beat environmental pollution and risks. The game was thoroughly enjoyed.

Visits to Mozambique are planned for early July. Watch this space for feedback and photos!

Community feedback – South Africa and Mozambique!

By Karen Nortje

Mr Wouter Le Roux and Mr Elliot Moyo talking to people at the Lepele meeting in South Africa.

Cubo meeting attendees with Ms Karen Nortje (CSIR) second from the left, and Mrs Dorah Esturah (Massingir District officer) next to Mr Wouter Le Roux (CSIR) in the middle).
June 2013 - During weeks of the 6th and 13th of May 2013, three CSIR team members, Wouter Le Roux, Karen Nortje and Elliot Moyo visited the South African and Mozambican case villages. One of the main considerations of the Lower Olifants Community Health Project is to ensure that there is a dual flow of information between the scientific team and the communities who are taking part in the project. As such the focus of these two trips were to inform the community and their leaders about the progress that the project team has been making, as well as some preliminary feedback on available results with regards to water quality.

The team visited Lepele and Botshabelo in South Africa during the week of the 6th of May. In Lepele the team visited with Acting Chief, Chief Sobore Nolha Kobeng and her council. In Botshabelo the team visited with local Headman, Mr Malapane and the Botshabelo Water Anti-Pollution Committee. The meetings in both these villages went extremely well and the CSIR team would like to thank the respective local leadership for their time and support. The week of the 13th of May saw the team in Mozambique. As per local custom the team first went to pay their respects to the Massingir District Officer, Mrs Dorah Esturah. It has been essential from the very beginning of this project to work closely with the Mozambican Government in the district in order to ensure true and lasting collaboration between the two countries. Mrs Esturah kindly made time in her schedule to accompany the CSIR team to the feedback meeting at Cubo which was attended by local leaders and interested parties. In Canhane, Chief Zitha welcomed the team to speak to all his headmen. Again, having been so warmly welcomed back, the team would also like to thank all the respective local leaders in Mozambique as well as Mrs Esturah for their commitment to making a different with the CSIR.

Attendees at the meetings were given feedback sheets which detailed the project progress to date, as well as preliminary feedback specifically focussed on their area. This was followed by an informal presentation of the main issues in the feedback sheet as well as some time for questions and answers. In Botshabelo it was specifically noted that the community appreciates the feedback session as well as the willingness of the CSIR team to share their knowledge and networks with the community. It was noted that previous projects in Botshabelo which the community took part in failed to make project communication a priority, and this is one of the main reasons these projects are no longer around today!

Fish Sampling Campaign

Fish Sampling Campaign led by Dr Danny Govender and her team in the Massingir District, Mozambique from 25 February - 1 March 2013.



Structured interviews in Mozambique

Two villages located outside of the Limpopo Park, Cubo and Canhane, were selected as study sites. Water from Lake Massingir is used extensively in both of these villages. Both are located close to the water, and have satellite fishing villages at the water’s edge. Fish is consumed on a large scale, and crops are planted next to the water and irrigated from the lake.

After the stakeholder meeting a team of local fieldworkers were selected from submitted applications, and trained over a period of five days. Training was facilitated by the project manager in conjunction with the senior fieldwork managers who would be responsible for monitoring fieldwork on a daily basis. Training included background to the project, interview techniques, explanation of contracts and a detailed exposition of all the questions as well as the quality control measures. During the training extensive use was made of role-play and mock interviews. A pilot study was done on the 23rd of October. When the fieldworkers were ready, a pilot study was done to give them exposure to real interviews. A debriefing session was held after the pilot study.

The fieldwork started on the 29th of October and continued until the last records were submitted on 9 November. Quality control by means of telephonic and personal re-interviews confirmed the reliability of the data. No problem were found with the quality of the interviews.

The view over Lake Massingir
Obed with local fishermen
The three fieldworkers: Silva Zitha, Santos Shangane, and Silva Mbombe

Silva Zitha conducting an interview
Quality control: finding the right house for a re-interview
Obed conducts a quality control interview

Sacred wells and community clean-up schemes in South Africa – qualitative interactions in the South African case study villages

By Karen Nortje and Elliot Moyo

Sacred wells at Lepele village

The banks of the Olifants River at Botshabelo village
December 2012 - During December 2012, a CSIR team of social scientists visited two of the case study villages identified for the South African part of the study. The two villages that were visited are Botshabelo and Lepele. The team followed a qualitative research methodology in each of these villages consisting of one-on-one interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation. In Lepele, the team was welcomed by Acting Chief, her Royal Highness Chief Sobore Nolha Kobeng who, together with her council of advisors, made available time to escort the team to the local wells. The local wells are located outside of the JG Strydom Tunnels and are considered to be a sacred site for the residents not only of Lepele village, but also for many individuals further afield. The wells have become famous for their healing and purifying ability as some people believe that if you immerse and wash yourself in the water you will be cured of disease and misfortune. However, it is also believed that those who are “unclean” are devoured by the spirit of the well who at times take the form of a great snake. It is here that we find an important intersection between spiritual and sacred beliefs and the risks that are posed to the community health with regards to their water. Villagers from Lepele have serious concerns with regards to these sacred practices as they often find dead bodies of believers who came for purification, in the river water, but who ended up deceased, and depending what you believe, were either found wanting with regards to their purity, or slipped and drowned in the water. Either scenario however poses the same risk to the community as these sacred waters are also the same water the community uses for drinking water when they have no water in their municipal taps - a frequent occurance according to locals. In this regard, Chief Kobeng and her advisors have asked for advice on how to better manage this risk without desecrating the site or exasterbating the problem.

In Botshabelo, the team encountered local Headman Mr Malapane who assisted the team with establishing relationships with the locals. An important issue that was raised during several of the interactions was the fact that the community tend to pollute their own river water. The team was shown how locals have piggeries on the banks of the river causing increased pollution especially during the rainy season. Added to that, locals complained that people tend to throw, amongst other things, dead animals and dirty nappies in the river. An encouraging outcome from the team’s interactions with the local community is the establishment of the Botshabelo Water Anti-pollution Committee. The Committee is made up of community ambassadors from each section of the village and who are tasked with a mandate to initiate water cleanliness campaigns in the entire village and to discourage any forms of pollution by community members. The committee has also been given some prosecuting authority by the local headman where citizens can be taken to task if they pollute the river. The Committee expressed the need for more information regarding river pollutions, associated health risks and possible mitigating practices.

Water Sampling Site Selection

August 2012 - In order to select appropriate study sites for the project three members of the research team visited human settlements within the Lower Olifants River catchment.

A pre-requisite for any potential site was that the settlement should be located in close proximity to the main stem of the Olifants River, furthermore inhabitants should be dependent on the river as a source of water that is directly used. Be it for drinking, domestic purposes, fishing, irrigation, recreational or even cultural and spiritual uses.

Based upon satellite photographs, and personal communication with local researchers, an area (not far from Hoedspruit) containing a few villages was identified. Accordingly the aim of the visit was to evaluate these human settlements for their suitability to serve as study sites, and to meet with local (SANParks) researchers to discuss the inclusion of sites.