River friends bag award

Friends of Liesbeek chairman Phil McLean, Mncekelekeli Klaas and Conor Eastment receiving the National Groups Award from WESSA chairman and CEO Dr Thommie Burger.

If you’ve spent time lazing on the lush green grass on the banks of the Liesbeeck River, you have your neighbourly volunteers and Friends of the Liesbeek (FOL) to thank.

Some hard work gets done to keep the river clean and it has now been recognised by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA).

When the society held its annual awards ceremony on Saturday September 16, and the FOL walked away with an award for the work they have done to conserve the river.

The National Group Award was given to FOL for its community-managed stream rehabilitation initiative, which has helped to protect the river and create jobs in the process.

It’s the first time FOL has entered the competition.

“It would not have been possible to have implemented these interventions without an active community,” said FOL project manager Conor Eastment. “Most Friends groups are volunteer groups, but we managed to get private funding from companies who provide a maintenance fee for the river.

“Guys who are unemployed are paid to pick up litter and assist with invasive species removal. A stormwater retention pond was also created, which has reeds inside which filter pollutants.

“Since 1987, there is a decline in pollutants and I like to think that’s because of what we’re doing.”

Mr Eastment said the group had taken responsibility for the area and offered to work with the City of
Cape Town because it was important to maintain natural areas and
the City didn’t have the resources for it.

Mr Eastment advised other Friends groups to approach corporates for funding.

“This innovative and unifying work is an example to be up-scaled to other parts of South Africa” said Wessa chairman and CEO Dr Thommie Burger.

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