A team of intrepid social activists and outdoor adventurers set off from Muizenberg Beach this morning to paddle – yes paddle – across the Cape Peninsula to Milnerton, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.  They aim to draw attention to the need to value our waterways, for a different approach to river management and to raise funds for a youth environmental leadership project. 

The Paddlers:  Trevor Johnston – CEO of Educo Africa, Thomas Cousins – anthropologist and environmentalist, Kevin Winter – Environmental and Geographical Science Department, UCT and Alister Lee – environmental engineer with SRK, left the beach at 6:30 this morning and set out across Zandvlei cheered on by family and friends from the Zandvlei Trust.  It will take them the whole day to navigate upstream, following the canalised rivers of the Cape Flats that have their mouth in False Bay. On reaching the apex of the watershed, the team will then paddle downstream, following the Black River as it exits into the Atlantic Ocean. They will follow waterways that flow through the most affected watersheds: those that have been canalised, their water quality compromised, and whose communities are most affected by poverty and the effects of a rising water table.  On route, they will connect with community organisations at as many points as possible, highlighting the social and environmental challenges that confront the interface between human and aquatic communities. 

Even the relatively short paddle across Zandvlei revealed both the magic and misery of Cape Town’s river system.  The rising sun lit a water wonderland inhabited by heron, pelican, kingfishers and uncountable waterfowl.  As the group of paddlers approached the Sand River Canal, the pair of resident Fish Eagles called – almost embarrassed that the paddlers were on the water before they had had a chance to announce the new day.  The rising sun revealed the vast amount of refuse brought into Zandvlei by the wind and washed down the canals.  While the paddle team stopped to do water quality testing, I watched two Pied Kingfishers balancing on a discarded TV-now-synthetic-rock as they surveyed the water for signs of breakfast.  It is amazing just how adaptable some of our wildlife is –   but we need to act before their resilience is exceeded. 


After the Peninsula Paddle Expedition

The Peninsula Paddle Expedition 2010 is a partnership with EducoAfrica, Gravity Adventures, University of Cape Town, City of Cape Town, Environmental Monitoring Group, National Botanical Institute, and others.  EducoAfrica is a key Peninsula Paddle partner whose aim it is to ensure that transformation continues.  They are an NPO and have been running out-door environmental and experiential leadership training for youth and NGOs around South Africa since 1994.  The Peninsula Paddle expedition seeks to raise funds for eight youth environmental leadership programmes that will be run in partnership with Yabonga, Mamelani, Positive Muslims, James House, Zanempilo Trust, Western Cape Street Children Forum, RAPCAN, Western Cape Network for Community Peace and Development,  in the Partners for Possibility school-based, community-building programme.  Ninety six youth will be invited to participate in a transformational programme that seeks to develop their inter- and intra-personal leadership skills using environmental action as the key tool for transformation.

To make this happen, sponsorship is being sought from key industries, companies and organisations for three aspects of the Peninsula Paddle:

Initiating legacy projects with communities through which rivers pass. E.g. recycling facilities, park amenities, lighting, landscaping, school environmental clubs, maintaining dedicated stretches of river.

Supporting Educo Africa participants in the environmental leadership training from June 2010 to March 2011. 

Expedition costs for the paddle itself (administration, equipment, facilities).

For more information or to offer support, call Alison Lee at EducoAfrica  on 021 761 8939 or email alison@educo.org.za.