_: Programme Director
Vice Chancellor and Principal: Professor Mahlo Mokgalong
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
I feel gratified to be back at home. The University of Limpopo popularly known as Turfloop will always be a home away from home for me. It was at this University that I spent many years during the apartheid regime interacting with and mobilising people, young and old in pursuit of a South Africa that is democratic, non-racial and non-sexist. I stand before you today as one of your own.
We are gathered here during the Month of August, which our government and our nation celebrate annually as Women’s Month. This year we are commemorating Women’s Month under the theme: 56 years of women united against poverty, inequality and unemployment.
It is in this month that South Africa pays tribute to and honours the heroines of the liberation struggle such as Charlotte Maxeke, Lilian Ngoyi, Bertha Qgowa and many other unsung heroines who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest against oppressive apartheid laws.
The official handover of the Environmental Science Education Centre also known as the Biodiversity Centre heralds a new era for the Department of Environmental Affairs and the University of Limpopo in the areas of cooperation on environmental conservation, research and general science education.
South Africa as one of the 17 countries around the world, classified as mega-diverse by the organisation known as Conservation International, is committed to the conservation and sustainable management of biological resources, which are our natural heritage. Developing biodiversity policies, plans and programmes alone cannot be sufficient in our efforts to conserve this natural heritage for future generations, while passing on the benefits thereof to our people. There is a need to go beyond this.
Hence the establishment of centres that undertake and promote research into biodiversity science and run environmental education programmes, can make a meaningful contribution towards the conservation of living resources and sustainable human well-being.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Biological diversity provides raw materials for industry and essential ecosystem goods and services, from air purification to water filtration, to climate stabilisation and flood control. It forms the basis for food security and is the source of medicines on which health care depends. There is a growing realisation of the value of biodiversity in quantifiable economic terms, and it’s essential role in promoting sustainable development and poverty alleviation as well as its cultural and aesthetic aspects.
The rich variety of biological resources and the interactions between them, are therefore, not a luxury, but vital for the development and growth of human societies and the very existence of life on Earth.
The Department of Environmental Affairs through its Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) has funded the implementation of the Environmental Science Education Centre project. The project is focused on development of Environmental Science Education Centre which consists of the construction of the Biodiversity Centre, access roads, walkways and parking areas, palisade fencing, car ports, water supply, and storm water control.
The R28, 5 million Environmental Science Education Centre project was implemented using labour intensive methods in line with the requirements of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The project has employed 74 local people. Amongst the people employed, 18 are women, 14 are youth, and 01 person with a disability. Government is committed to ensuring that it takes collective action for the active development and implementation of policies and practices that address the needs of poor women.
We provided accredited training opportunities to local people employed in the project on Plumbing, Painting, General Field Assistant and Assistant Chef.
Non accredited training on the other hand covered a variety of courses including Managing Personal Finances, Health and Safety, First Aid, Brick Laying, Landscape Maintenance, fencing, Welding and Environmental Awareness.
This project has also contributed to the development of small business enterprises. Seventeen (17) small businesses have been used in providing services in plumbing, shack installation, catering, training, drawing of structural plans, construction, guarding service, transportation of materials, supply of building material, and protective clothing.
This project will be promoted provincially, nationally and to our neighbouring SADC countries to facilitate education, research and community outreach in semi-arid environments.
The ultimate aim is to educate and make the role players in the region aware of conservation and biodiversity issues, as well as their importance in the sustainable management and preservation of water resources, for future generations.
In conclusion I would like to thank the University of Limpopo for their partnership and cooperation on this project.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank our sponsors:
Department of Science and Technology / National Research Foundation’s South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement – for Programmatic Support Fund and Exhibits;
Anglo American Platinum for Outreach Programmes;
KDV Technologies – for exhibits;
Blue Cherry Signs for recycling exhibits;
Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism – for Limpopo Tooling Initiative and Green Technology Exhibits
Lastly, I want to thank the local people for the hard work they put in during the construction of this project.