300 Young South Africans: Environment (Part 2)

In this section: Samantha Peterson, Xoli Funyani, Simon Gear, Rhoda Malgas and more…

Rhoda Malgas, environmental consultant

Rhoda Malgas first became interested in the environment on visits to her family’s farming community in the Overberg. She would take walks with her uncle in the mountains as he explained to her the names of different plants and what they were used for.
Now Malgas is responsible for a project working with small-scale farmers in the Swartland region, which looks at how they are adapting to climate change in order to draw on their combined experience for future planning.
Her employer, Indigo Development and Change falls under an umbrella group, 90x2030, formed after a series of dialogues on climate change inspired the staff of the Goedgedacht Trust to establish the project two years ago. Their vision is that South Africans from all sectors will do their bit to save the planet by reducing their carbon footprints and commit to changing the way we live by 90% by the year 2030.—Eamon Allan

Lunch spot: Col’Cacchio, Cape Town

Lindela Mjenxane, environmental educator

Lindela Mjenxane is the founder of the Beyond Expectations Environmental Project, a grassroots undertaking to help township youths connect with the environment. Mjenxane, who left his childhood home near Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape for Phillipi in Cape Town, understands the “disconnectedness” young people growing up in townships can feel.
On a two-day mountain trip, Mjenxane points out plants and animals, coaxes learners into speaking about the difficulties they face back home and encourages them to “look beyond the challenges” they face. “Many of them are trapped in an environment dominated by poverty. We afford them an opportunity to reflect on their lives,” he says.
When the children return to their communities, they take with them lessons on water and environmental conservation, and are encouraged to start food gardens and environmental clubs.
Mjenxane has won a number of awards for his philanthropic and environmental work, including a Premier’s Award for Service Excellence.—Faranaaz Parker

Lunch spot: Mugg & Bean, Century City, Cape Town



Bridget Ringdahl; national coordinator; Wessa/WWF eco-schools programme


Bridget Ringdahl is the national coordinator of Wessa/WWF Eco-Schools Programme in South Africa. Now in its seventh year, the programme provides support for environmental learning and management at over a thousand schools.
After completing an honours degree in environmental and geographical science at the University of Cape Town, Ringdahl won a scholarship to study a master’s in environmental sciences at Lund University in Sweden.
Ringdahl has also coordinated environmental education projects in five Southern African Development Community countries, developed resource material for Wessa and volunteers at the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust.
But Ringdahl is better known as the Blonde on a Bike, following the success of two volumes of her traveller’s tales about her epic cycling trips through Asia and South America. She downplays the challenges of the months she spent pedalling through remote regions of the world. “The most scary thing about it, is deciding to do it,” she says.—Faranaaz Parker

Lunch spot: Café Blom, Mooi River


Mandla Tshabalala; manager; Siiyakhana Food Garden

Mandla Tshabalala is truly committed to his work. Tshabalala resides right smack on site at the Siyakhana Food Garden, in Bezuidenhout Park, Bez Valley. Here he is manger, herbalist and resident permaculturist.
Siyakhana, a joint project between the Health Promotion Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand and several local NGOs, not only serves as a food garden, supplying nine organisations with fruit and vegetables, it also works to educate communities about organic food production, good health and nutrition practices, environmental management and provides education and work to vulnerable groups such as street children.
Tshabalala has been with Siyakhana since 2005 bringing with him his passion and knowledge for local herbs and their therapeutic properties. His work he says “brings change everyday” and “fills the soul”.—Lynley Donnelly

Lunch spot: Siyakhana Food Garden, Bez Valley, Johannesburg

Thabo Kgomommu, cultural heritage manager

Many people think archaeology is just about digging up dinosaur bones, but for Thabo Kgomommu it’s also about cultural heritage. As manager for cultural heritage at SANParks, Kgomommu advises on heritage issues and directs visitors’ attention towards the cultural value of a site, so they don’t “just focus on the animals”.
He has done research on the Batswana culture at the Lichtenburg Museum, planned exhibitions at Robben Island Museum and coordinated heritage activities for the Mogale City municipality. He also served as coordinator of provinces for the South African Heritage Resources Agency where, among other things, he facilitated the management of national heritage sites.
Kgomommu serves on the board of the Northern Flagship Institute, which oversees the running of three Gauteng museums and is an occassional lecturer in museum studies at the University of Pretoria’s department of historical and heritage studies.—Faranaaz Parker

Lunch spot: Smoke Café and Grill Lounge, Groenkloof

Samantha Peterson; manager; WWF Sustainable Fisheries Programme

Samantha Petersen doesn’t have an easy job. As head of the combined sustainable fisheries programme for WWF, Petersen deals with some of the most vulnerable parts of the world’s ecosystem each and every day.
She says what keeps her going is the belief that we are in a better position to address environmental problems because of our technological advances and collective increased knowledge of the marine habitat. This is ironically at a time when marine conditions are in the worst degraded state.
Petersen, who trained as a veterinary nurse, went on to obtain a BSc in zoology from Unisa as well as a PhD from the University of Cape Town focusing on the bycatch of vulnerable species in longline and trawl fisheries.—Eamon Allan

Lunch spot: Blowfish, Blouberg



Simon Gear, meteorologist

Simon Gear doesn’t just talk about the weather. He uses his opportunity as the nation’s weatherman to advocate for environmental issues at every chance he gets.
Earlier this year, Gear published Going Green: 365 Ways to Save the World—a list of daily tips that’s helping South Africans live a little greener every day. He also started up SDG consulting, which provides expert input on a wide range of environmental and development projects.
Gear has been producing weather bulletins for the SABC since 1999 and he is now senior broadcasting meteorologist. He also works as the environmental correspondent for Primedia and provides daily weather bulletins. He has appeared as the commercial face for the Food and Trees for Africa’s climate change campaign.—Eamon Allan

Lunch spot: Nuno’s, Melville, Johannesburg



Rosemary Noge, environmental consultant

Rosemary Noge quickly moved up the ranks at Goldfields to head up the group’s strategy formulation for sustainable development.
But there was one aspiration this dream job could not fulfil: to own a business. At 11, she remembers telling her serial-entrepreneur grandmother that she wanted her own flower shop one day. She went on to study international relations in the United States before joining one of the biggest gold producers in the world.
But it was last year th³at her dream became a reality and Bloom was born in Rosebank. The lifestyle boutique and flower shop is distinct in its approach and all the goods and flowers on sale are locally sourced from socially responsible initiatives.
Noge continues to consult on environmental issues but says that her dream shop now allows her to spend more time with her young family while she decides on the next challenge.—Hendri Pelser

Lunch spot: Cilantro, Parkhurst, Asara, Stellenbosch



Duncan MacFadyen; research manager; E Oppeheimer & Son

To have a species of insect named after you turns out to be quite an honour. And Duncan MacFadyen deserves it.
He’s so passionate about jewel beetles that two have taken his name, in recognition of his contribution to research on the insects, which he did while working in scientific services in Kruger Park.
MacFadyen has a national diploma, BTech and a master’s degree in nature conservation with an MSc in entomology and zoology and is presently busy with a PhD. He recently launched a book, Tuggy’s Busy Day, about a dung beetle and human recklessness.
The dedicated conservationist has been curator of mamology at the Transvaal Museum of Natural History. He is the manager of research and conservation for E Oppenheimer & Son and sits on the De Beers biodiversity and environmental peer group committees.—Tanya Pampalone

Lunch spot: Wombles, Parktown North, Johannesburg

Xoli Funyani, environmental educator

Xoli Funyani started a marketing diploma at Cape Technikon but left in her second year. That’s when she decided to join the Mission Antarctica team travelling around South Africa raising environmental awareness and she hasn’t looked back.
Born and raised in Gugulethu, Funyani has been involved with the eco-schools programme that works with 11 primary schools in Gugulethu. She also volunteered with Pride of Table Mountain and led excursions on the mountain with young people to encourage interest and knowledge about the environment.
She works as environmental education coordinator with Earth Child Project, which reaches out to local schools to help improve the environment and, with it, the lives of local children.
And after only one year the schools have organic vegetable gardens, are recycling and their tuckshops sell healthy food.—Eamon Allan

Lunch spot: Moyo, Cape Town

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