Kathu, known as ‘the town under the trees’, came into being as a result of iron-ore mining activity in the Kalahari – an area previously home only to farmers of sheep and cattle. Thousands of jobs were created with the opening of the Kumba (Sishen) Opencast Mine and today almost a third of Anglo American’s iron ore comes from there. But for the past 60 years, as the mine has been drilling deeper and deeper, the surrounding area has become more and more dewatered. When a hole is dug, groundwater naturally flows into the vacant space, so this water is pumped out to accommodate further digging. This practice seems to dehydrate the farmlands from right beneath the farmers.
The Water Act requires that the mine returns the water extracted to surrounding landowners, but the water that is coming back is contaminated and in limited quantities. Farmers complain there isn’t even enough to run their farms and, in places, cattle have become sick. Is this conflict a case of livelihoods and a landscape at stake or are there other agendas at play? In light of the Kathu dewatering issue, we speak to Abe Abrahams of the Department of Water Affairs. He sheds some light on the processes involved in mining and water licencing.
Katse Trout Farming
Over the past few years the fish-farming industry, or aquaculture, has boomed to become an 8-billion dollar industry. With South Africans and the rest of the world eating more and more fish, there is inevitably increased pressure on wild fish stocks. There is clearly a need for a growing aquaculture industry. The pristine waters of the Katse Dam in Lesotho host Woolworths’ sustainable trout-farming operation. The eggs are hatched in Franschhoek in the Western Cape but are trucked to and raised in the clear, clean, cold waters of the Katse Dam. The healthy waters are producing healthy fish. The nets are checked frequently to ensure that there are no escape holes for the trout, who could interfere with natural fish populations, and health checks are made daily and monthly. Fish nets are also placed where water flow is high so that no pumps are used, supporting the operation’s commitment to ecologically sound farming methods. The end product is outstanding fresh trout, another great example of how Woolworths monitors its supply of ecologically sustainable produce.
Sekgweng: Social networks of the bush
This week Johann explores the social networks of the Eastern Cape wilderness when he gets down and dirty in a communal midden. Every animal leaves little clues about what it is up to in the bush, and Johann explains what those clues are and what they say. It appears that living together certainly has its advantages.
This week in VeldFokus we take a look at whole nest full of bird-related entries. Everything from those annoying brood parasites that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests to thieving, double-jointed African harrier-hawks bent on destroying an entire weaver population and a somewhat overfriendly little oxpecker who exchanges its normal herbivorous hosts for a person or two.