We spent a week in the Eastern Cape as part of our Faith and Eco-Justice project, which is a three-year programme designed to share information with diverse faith leaders in selected Provinces so that they can both educate their communities about climate change, and reach out to policy makers to advocate for change at national level.
On the first morning we met with a group of 8 dedicated and curious people who live in Graaff Reinet, an area gripped by drought. We discussed climate change impacts. The group are mostly young leaders, and they brainstormed energetically about ways to help their communities build resilience. They realised their greatest issue is not lack of water, but lack of ability to store the rain water when it comes, and it does come. We watched a National Geographic short video on the greenhouse effect and realised how interconnected apparently random events may be. Food gardens, water saving and recycling projects are coming up – and the best thing is, they are youth-led.
Our next stop was Komani, formerly known as Queenstown. It is a regional hub set amongst exquisite rolling hills in which a number of tiny villages nestle, scattered over vast distances. While food security is a major issue throughout the area mostly because of unemployment and poverty, the most consistent need we encountered is for fencing. Land and rich soil is abundant, but fencing is needed to keep out the cattle – even in the centre of Komani, the main town in the area. We met a lady who is a retired financial administrator. During the Covid-19 lockdown she turned to gardening a patch she was given at the Cathedral in the centre of town. She speaks about finding the cattle picking their way gently through her veggies to reach the fruit trees in the centre. She glowed with good health and joy, and told us it was because of her gardening that she is so strong and active.
In Komani we spoke to 25 community leaders about climate change, resilience building and sustainability. We learned about their challenges with lack of electricity, sanitation and employment, and about their deep willingness to share information and join hands to help each other at individual, community and regional levels. The community representatives were inspired by listening to their neighbours’ experiences, and all realised what a strong support network they can provide for each other. We also explored how SAFCEI can support the communities.
In Komani, we picked up Green Anglican, Mabhuti Mpafa for our workshop in Gqeberha with six other faith leaders.
Although they come from very different parts of the province, the shared concerns of these faith leaders included waste management, food security and access to clean water. They have agreed on a campaign to lead by example, sharing with their communities what it means to be an earth keeper and encouraging them to do likewise. The moral and spiritual leadership of their faith communities is a powerful point of departure.
We used facilitation skills to help shift focus to a positive, asset based perspective. In this workshop a simple exploration of skills in the room resulted in some super-exciting possibilities for collaboration. Rev Zukisa needs help restoring his mission station which has fallen into disrepair. He discovered that fellow environmentalist Ricardo Swanepoel, a Gqeberha Rastafarian, also has carpentry, painting and tiling skills. The wealth of gardening experience in the room saw some rich exchange, as well as a request for further training. We also looked at contacts – who do we know? Mabhuti Mpafa is an entrepreneur from Komani who has worked out how the group can maximise their food gardening efforts to create work opportunities, employment and sustainable incomes. He has contacts in Departments of Agriculture and understands how SETAs work. Nkosazana Mrubata introduced us to her sister who works in the local City administration, so now we know who to write to for assistance getting Ricardo’s area’s water and sewage leak issues sorted out. Nkosazana’s sister is keen to collaborate and set up workshops like this one, focused on climate change and resilience building.
Finally, the group was eager to implement all the ideas discussed. Before we left, we started our campaign by creating mini profiles for all our Earthkeepers for them to share on social media and use to uplift their messages in their communities.
By Rev Berry Behr, SAFCEI’s Faith Leader Liaison
My name is Mabhuti George Mpafa. I am an Anglican living in Komani. I am a member of St Peter’s Anglican, Ezibeleni Parish, Eastern Cape and an executive member of Green Anglicans Khahlamba Diocese. I see opportunities for us all to work together, bringing our individual gifts, to help each other create a healthier, safer, better world for everyone by looking after the earth and being the hands, eyes and ears of God. I am an earth keeper because I encourage everyone in my community to work together to create food security in a sustainable way, and to join hands in service.
My name is Nkosazana Mrubata. I live in Cala and Ngcobo and I am a leader in the Reformed African Congregational Church. I am doing recycling in my community because I want to help keep my community clean. We find ways to make use of what is already there, repurposing discarded items usefully. I am satisfied that I am an earth keeper and I can show others how to treat the earth better.
My name is Sindiswa Mancotywa. I am an Anglican and a member of the choir in the Parish of St Bartholomew’s in Alice. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up” – James 4:10″. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. My family and I have learned how to take waste from the street, wash it and upcycle it to make beautiful items to sell. This Creativity is our gift from God, and our way of serving God and the planet. We can take things that are ugly and make them into something beautiful.
My name is Gwen Mvula. I am the Diocesian Environmental Coordinator. I am a teacher and a priest in the Makhanda Parish of St Phillips. I love teaching the children to collect waste and create toys, projects and useful items out of it. I also teach the children about planting, and about the joy of harvesting the fruits of the earth. I see how they change when they work with the soil and plant things and watch them grow. I am an earth keeper because I am doing God’s work, doing my best to look after the land so the land can do God’s work and look after us.
My name is Ricardo Swanepoel. I am a Rastafari living in Helenvale, Gqeberha. I am passionate about a better life for everyone, including the earth that supports and feeds us. We have to look after the earth, look after the soil and not pollute it. The health of our communities depends on how we treat the earth. I stand for clean energy, clean water, clean air and healthy food. Together we can do this.
My name is Zukisa Mabuya. I am an Anglican Priest in St Luke’s Parish in Nxarhuni (Newlands, East London). My parish is on the banks of the Nahoon River, we have rich soil and plenty of land which we are preparing as food gardens to create food security in our area. I am excited that as an earth keeper and emissary of God I can inform and motivate my community to live more sustainably. I live by Psalm 24 v1: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all who live in it.”