My name is Nolo Gwangqa. I’m from Philippi in Cape Town, South Africa.
My passion and my training is in Conservation, so its’ no big surprise that I ended up as the Conservation Officer for Gondwana Alive.
My job is to ensure that we develop and run our trails responsibly and that we help communities along the trails to look after and restore their natural environment.
I’ve been researching South Africa’s Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations and red flag criteria to guide us in designing environmentally friendly trails. Once we’ve designed a trail product we know works for the environment and market, knowing the regulations will help us to know if it is necessary to obtain environmental approval and the process to follow if it is. For more information on environmental assessment, check out this report.
The first trail I was involved in developing is the Village to Village Trail on Cape Town’s stunning South Peninsula near the famous Cape Point. With the help of my mentors Tracey and Ivan, and my colleague Etienne, I did a baseline environmental assessment of the route and set up a monitoring system. The trail is 20 odd kilometres long and crosses a variety of habitats and ecosystems – this made us very excited about the potential of trails to act as yardsticks measuring the status of biodiversity over time. This is particularly relevant with climate change making its presence felt. An added bonus is that in the long run guides/monitors will be paid through trails so it can also be a sustainable monitoring system. We’re in the process of linking up with SAEON to try and get them equally excited about this potential.
To give us a framework on which to base our restoration activities along Village to Village Trail, I’ve also been researching the Biodiversity Status and Climate Change vulnerabilities in South Africa, the Western Cape and Cape Town. With the help of my colleagues I’m in the process of researching best practice in approaching communities to engage them in restoring biodiversity, and increasing their resilience to climate change by using their natural resources (ecosystem based approach). Check out these report on biodiversity and climate change.
My research on climate change shows it is going to become increasingly hot and dry with more frequent and extreme events – wild fires, wind, floods, storms. The sea level is also going to rise. This presents an increasing problem for the thousands of people living on the low lying Cape Flats, where large areas become a wetland in winter. Myself and several of my colleagues live on the Cape Flats so you can imagine that this sparked some interesting debates on whose responsibility it was that people ended up living on the Flats and what can be done about it – check out Zanele’s “living in a fishbowl” comment below.
Since my report on climate change came out at a time when we were experiencing extraordinary rainfall and flooding – it highlighted that climate change was already making itself felt and stimulated some research on flooding related evidence and the associated costs – keep watch for Etienne’s blog for more information.
All in all its been a good journey, I’ve been excited to learn how to work independently and in a team and to develop my research skills, a career I’d like to pursue …. I’m Nolo and “I conserve”.