Gouritz Cluster Biosphere – Our Environment & Making a Difference

Oct 7, 2020 | Environmental Education, Gouritz Resilient Rivers, Inspiration

On the 3rd and 4th of September 2020, the GCBR marketing department had the opportunity to join some of our project managers on site to get a hands-on experience of what their projects entail.

We also met the hardworking teams behind the work and had great conversations around how we would like to evolve the GCBR in order to work for the communities in our domain.

Environmental Education

We arrived in Albertinia on the morning of the 3rd, and joined project managers, André Britz and Ina Scholtz, at Oker Primary School.

It is evident that to keep the children’s attention, André and Ina focus highly on visual learning.  The kids seem to remember what they’ve been taught much better than only learning in theory, and they don’t lose interest as they are able to interact with their environment.

André and Ina implement very different, but complimentary approaches – André could seem a little “stricter” at first glance, but the banter between him and the kids show the great respect they have for him, as well as the structure and discipline it creates for them.

Ina is very warm and friendly, and provides a wholesome, loving atmosphere (with a lot of talking and laughter in-between!). Together their balance works wonders.

We were divided into two groups – rotating between the lessons for the day. We were taught about the importance of the Spekboom (and all other plants) for producing oxygen as well as the role of animals in the environment and how we shouldn’t remove or eliminate mice, spiders, bees and snakes.  We learnt how to propagate a Spekboom cutting and each child planted their own spekboom plant in front of the school’s entrance, which they will be taking care of themselves with the help of John (Surname and job description/role?), who helps the kids to keep their school neat and maintained.

Alien Plant Clearing in the Wetlands

We met up with Rita Liebenberg, project manager for the Goukou Resilient River project in Riversdale.

We learnt about the alien clearing process – about how Wattle grows and how it causes erosion because of the root system. We also learnt about how difficult it is to maintain it after it’s been cleared – that multiple follow-ups are needed.

We also met up with Kezia Botes, Research & Rehabilitation Co-Ordinator, who showed us the nursery in progress, and we met “Zeus”, the woodchipper!  They are using Zeus to chip the wattle and create mulch to suppress the seed banks and inhibit regrowth of the alien invasive species. They are also in the process of seeing how value-added products can be extracted from this process – such as developing feed for cattle.

Rita showed us a plant called ‘Bugweed’ that has an interesting look but is also a “bad alien”.  We were educated on a few plants that we weren’t even aware are invasive.

She also showed us the magnitude of the work the alien plant clearing teams have done.  It was incredible to see the amount of hard work these people are doing for their community. Rita explained the difficulty of clearing invasive plants such as Bramble, as well as the large trees and the size of the logs that need to be removed.  Nikki even tried to flip one, and it was not that easy!  We realized how incredibly fit these men and women must be in order to do this type of work on a daily basis.  It was quite an experience for the ‘computer babies’!

Kezia and Rita were explaining how much easier it makes it when landowners and farmers work together by helping with the process or reusing the cleared land, for example planting fynbos.

Goukou Invasive Alien Plant Clearing Wetlands

Goukou Invasive Alien Plant Clearing Wetlands

Goukou Invasive Alien Plant Clearing Wetlands

Photos by Riette van der Walt

Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve Family Time

After a long day in the field, we headed back to our accommodation at Deo Volente, where we brainstormed and chatted about future opportunities, focusses and things we’ve learnt.

Ina made lovely snacks and salads and André was our braai master – he even braaied his first vegan patty! It was great to bond with the team and chat about challenges we all face and how we can apply ourselves to overcome them as a team, as well as growth opportunities for the future.

More Environmental School Education

On Friday morning, the 4th of September, we arrived at Voorwaarts Primary School where Ina and André taught the kids about the Spekboom, animals and the environment.  The kids planted their own trees which they will be taking care of themselves.

We met the head boy and head girl and they gave us a tour of their beautiful school.  The kids are very involved in keeping the school maintained, planting veggies in their garden, and keeping the bathrooms and school property clean and tidy.

We also got to see the passion and care the principal and teachers have for the school, the children and their education.

Goukou Community Upliftment

We arrived at the GCBR Riversdale office, where Rita and the Alien Clearing contractors were busy packing wooden planter crates (Goukou Box) with food and products for a community drop off.  The crates were filled with firewood, basic food and cleaning products, as well as vegetable seeds and potting soil to plant in the crates, keeping the gift growing.

We had interviews with Pierre Kellies, Andre Goliath, Louw Willemse, Jacobus Vaaltyn and Gary Granfield about their community, their teamwork, challenges they face and why they have chosen to work in this field.  The dynamic between these men are fun and friendly and they are very passionate about their community and being a part of the change that they want to see.

Kellies is definitely the most talkative and does not hold back with the jokes and banter!  Louw is quiet and reserved but speaks value when he does talk.  André comes across as quiet in front of the camera but warms up to the banter when the others are around.  Jacobus is very quiet but has the loudest team – for balance!  Gary says he doesn’t know what to say, but then he cannot stop talking!  We enjoyed spending some time with these men and hearing what they have to say.  They work really hard and need all the support that comes their way.

Goukou Community Upliftment

Photo by Nikki Du Toit

We would like to thank the project managers and their teams for spending time with us and sharing what it’s all about.  It was inspirational, educational and just altogether fun! We’ll definitely be visiting again soon.


Compiled by Riette van der Walt, MMC team member and web developer
Photos courtesy of Riette van der Walt and Nikki Du Toit

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