Seeing the Olifants through new eyes

“There is nothing like 30 creative minds, fresh eyes and a fountain of interesting ideas to paint a new picture of an old friend,” said Derick du Toit, Assistant Director at the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD). He was appraising senior pupils’ colourful and creative renditions of a river and its role in everyday life. 1-P1180494 The Olifants River nourishes all living things from Middelburg to Burgersfort, and then on to Hoedspruit, the Kruger National Park and Xai Xai in Mozambique. In celebration of World Water Week, AWARD invited senior pupils from Shobiyana Senior Secondary School to Hoedspruit to showcase their impressions of how the river affects life in the catchment. Derick set the scene with a short talk. In particular, he highlighted the significance of a river as a system and how both the benefits of a healthy river and the ill effects of a degraded river are shared by its users. “In recent years, there have been signs that the Olifants River is under threat. It actually dried up for the first time in 2005 and there have been repeated fish and crocodile kills. In 2014, AWARD began implementing the USAID-funded RESILIM O project to better understand the activities that affect the health of the Olifants River and the people, plants and animals that rely on it,” says Derick. Armed with newly acquired knowledge, the pupils brainstormed a shared framework for their art works. Under the guidance of their art teacher, Walter Sibuyi, the children surprised onlookers with stunningly interpretive banner paintings, each highlighting similar, yet also completely different aspects of the river. Their creative efforts so inspired the AWARD staff, who facilitated the brainstorming session, that they also painted a banner, with their enthusiasm making up for the slightly less accomplished artistic touch.

Some 30 senior pupils from Shobiyana Senior Secondary School painted their impression of the Olifants River and what it means to people in the catchment.

Some 30 senior pupils from Shobiyana Senior Secondary School painted their impression of the Olifants River and what it means to people in the catchment.

Under Walter’s watchful eye, the pupils completed the art work over the weekend. The paintings were collected by AWARD and displayed in Hoedspruit as a continuation of World Water Week activities. “This was a wonderfully creative opportunity for the kids to express their ideas and thoughts about water,” says Derick. Later this year, AWARD will be launching the Our Olifants campaign to start building a sense of shared responsibility and identity in the catchment. About AWARD AWARD is a non-profit organization specializing in participatory, research-based project implementation. Our work addresses issues of sustainability, inequity and poverty by building natural-resource management competence and supporting sustainable water-based livelihoods. We raise our own funds, work collaboratively with other organisations and strive to develop strong and rich professional networks. About USAID: RESILIM-O USAID: RESILIM-O focuses on the Olifants River Basin and the way in which people living in South Africa and Mozambique depend on the Olifants and its contributing waterways. It aims to improve water security and resource management in support of the healthy ecosystems that support livelihoods and resilient economic development in the catchment. The 5-year program, involving the South African and Mozambican portions of the Olifants catchment, is being implemented by the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD)