Tag Archive for: South Africa


Photo credit to Julie Ann Photography

My hometown has been a war zone for the last few days, my heart is sore and the adrenaline  has been bubbling just below the surface with everyone in fight or flight mode. Normal everyday tasks seemed meaningless and irrelevant with the dull thud of tear gas explosions and distant screams in the background. And how lucky am I that I had a safe haven for my family, away from the violent riots, my privilege makes me ache. My heart is sore for the children and families whose homes have been in the midst of the tear gas and the noise of the rubber bullet fire, for the hard working local business people whose businesses were looted, vandalised and wrecked, for the people with valid grievances about being long time shack dwellers with untenable living conditions and shocking services whose voices are now drowned out by the violence and focus on the criminals who took advantage of the situation, for the people who were threatened and intimidated and not able to go to work and who will not be paid for this time lost, for the 5 families who lost their homes to a shack fire in the early hours of the morning (rumors are that it was a threat followed through…you go to work, your home will be burnt), for the families of the people who lost their lives in the bus accident that happened on the detour road in wet and rainy weather as the national highway was closed by the rioters for 3 whole days, for the woman who is lying in ICU because a brick was thrown through her car window at the start of the riots, for all those who lost much needed income in the chaos and will still lose income due to the ripple effects of riots and bad press, for all those who suffered under the racist hate speech and anger directed at ‘them’ and ‘they’ on social media groups despite doing all in their power to protect themselves and their families and of course keep their jobs. For all this and more my heart is sore.

The hate speech, anger and blame make me almost as afraid as the violence, it is so divisive and will destroy us in the long term. Who is this ‘they’ you speak of, the woman raising your children? The people working hard to build up your business? The local school leaver struggling to find work?  Criminals taking advantage of the protest is absolutely unacceptable with devastating effect on familiy owned businesses, but so is painting everyone as a criminal, just based on the colour of their skin or the area they live in. Walk a day in the life of someone living in a ntyontyombe, a backyard shack. People say, ‘what does the violence and looting achieve, it just makes it worse.’ And I agree. But I ask, what does the hate speech, the anger, the negativity achieve? It just makes it worse. We need to find what it is we have in common that we can stand for, together.  And also what it is we, the majority, have in common that we won’t stand for, that which we won’t tolerate. Would I be wrong in saying that the majority of us simply want wellbeing for our families as our top priority? Shelter from the elements in a strong and resilient home, good education for our children, good nourishment and food, a healthy living environment, fresh water, clean air, a stable income and freedom from fear. Do we all have that in common? But does everyone in my hometown have that? No, not at all. So many are living in homes that are not strong enough to withstand the elements, the wind, the rain, the fire, the floods. Living environments are far from healthy and there are the social injustices of unemployment, unfair wages, high transport costs, crime, drug abuse and domestic violence. Can we come together to ensure that the basic wellbeing of families in our town is met?

We all suffer under the mismanagement and corruptive use of government funds both locally and nationally. Is this not also something the majority of us have in common? While for some the corruption is more  of an inconvenience as it does not impact much on the wellbeing of their families, yet for others the suffering is real as their families are robbed of any wellbeing at all. If we cannot expect those in power locally to place the wellbeing of all people as their core focus, then perhaps it is time for us to create a citizen’s assembly and make it happen. Because if we can’t get this right in our small town, if we can’t come together and stand strong for what we all wish for in common (the wellbeing of our families) and simultaneously stand strong and peacefully against the crime, corruption and violence then how are we going to get it right as a country?

And if we don’t pull together now how are we going to face the challenges of climate and ecological breakdown, which is already beginning to  unravel around us, we will all be in the same sinking boat and we will have to keep it afloat together. It reminds me of when I heard the birds calling their alarm call in a tree outside my home and I knew the call was probably for a snake. It was, there was the boomslang heading for a nest with baby birds, but what I found amazing was that all the different kinds of birds were swooping in and attacking the snake and yet the snake was only heading for the little white-eyes nest. But there was the robin, the fiscal shrike, the sunbird putting their own lives at risk to protect the white-eyes young. It made me think about how in times of crisis when there is a common threat people also put aside their differences and band together for the greater good of all. Climate breakdown is the snake in the tree, we have unleashed it and it will effect us all at some point, it is a threat we all have in common and we are going to have to band together to overcome it.

In other countries people are peacefully protesting in their millions to wake up governments, corporates and policy makers to change their ways and save human civilization as we know it. But here we still have the hurdle of social justice to overcome before we can come together and stand together for our common future as humans. So we better get onto it, there is certainly no time to waste. Empathy, compassion, strength in unity and our common vision will get us there, we all need to be asking the question… is what I’m saying, what I’m doing building bridges of community or creating more division? We are much weaker divided. This we know. Ask the white-eye birds.



Photo credit: Julie Ann Photography

water blog 2

Dear people of Cape Town, the deep seated ache you feel for rain right now is a constant longing and ever present ache for those of us who live off rainwater. We’ve been living solely on rainwater for the last 10 years, so being keenly aware of water usage has become second nature for my children, as it was for me growing up on a farm running purely on rainwater. When water is not an infinite resource that pours from a tap, but rather a precious lifeline that changes with the seasons, the darkening of the sky, the bleak days of drought and the ecstatic first sounds of raindrops hitting the roof as it runs into your rainwater tanks, it becomes a thread that runs deep in your veins.

So here are some of our water saving ways that form a natural part of everyday life:

1) Only wash dirty clothes – this is a biggie and I speak from the privileged position of having a washing machine. Wear clothes until they are truly dirty enough to go in the machine, the habit of wearing something once and then just chucking it in the laundry basket without first CHECKING if it actually warrants a wash is foreign to us. The same goes for towels and bedding which use a lot of water, don’t just wash them because you always wash on a Monday, ask yourself if they actually need a wash? And of course, only use the washing machine when it is ABSOLUTELY FULL. As a family of four we do two loads of washing a week to give you an idea….

IMG_6439 (Copy)2) Use biodegradable cleaning products – that way your used water can have a second use, the term GREYWATER has luckily become a well known concept. We have all the water from our bathroom going to the veggie garden through a filter of reeds and the kitchen water goes to a banana circle because, well,  bananas love water. There are many clever DIY ways of doing this or get in a company to help you. Here are some great local, biodegradable cleaning products… Probac, Naturally Good, the Clean Shop, Greenman.

3) Eat meat as a treat – your water saving ways can go beyond just the changes you make in your home habits, they can also include your consumer choices in the shops. Meat production uses far more agricultural water than vegetables and grains do. So if you are a meat eater why not have it as a treat, as it used to be, and not every night. Or go for Green Monday or Meat Free Monday, just having meat one less day a week will already have a sizable impact. And if you do buy meat, go for something like Karoo Choice where good veld management is a priority, protecting the river catchments.

4) Garden water wise – nothing grates a rainwater bunny like myself more than seeing gardens being watered in the heat of day when most of it is evaporating, plus it burns the leaves of the plants! Obviously if you have radical water restrictions you can’t water your garden (or if you are like my 7 year old you would be aghast at the fact that anyone could even ever water their lawn, we of course never can and never do) but it’s pretty obvious that it’s far better to water your garden in the cool hours of the day early morning and evening when it’s not all going to evaporate. Other simple water wise ways are to heavily mulch your garden beds to lock in the moisture, plant plants that are indigenous to your area and therefore adapted to the climate and the rainfall and remove any thirsty exotics especially if they are invasive.

IMG_6364 (Copy)5) Get a rainwater tank – it’s life changing, your relationship with water will never be the same as your heart will soar every time it rains and you know you are storing water for drier times. It just makes so much sense, and boy do I wish that every new house built in this country had a mandatory rain tank. They come in all shapes and sizes now to suit all rural and urban needs, it’s a capital outlay for sure but the rewards are very long lived!

6) Pools are a luxury – and should be treated as such. Being on rainwater we of course don’t have one, so I don’t have many real life tips around this, but perhaps there are basic responsibilities when it comes to pools, like re-using the water for the garden when you backwash and getting a cover to prevent evaporation?

7) Be truly water conscious – being aware of all our daily interactions with water needs to become second nature for all of us, it just has to. We live in South Africa, enough said. The only time a tap should be left running is when there is a plug in to catch the water that can be used for multiple purposes whether it’s washing dishes or veggies or two children in a shallow bath and then that water gets used again when it goes out to the garden. Every time we use water we feel aware of its value, only fill the kettle for how much tea you will drink, only flush the loo if you have to, only use the dishwasher when its full to capacity. Water saving ways need to run in our veins, it’s a matter of survival.

As our climates change and flux due to man made activities and dry places become drier and wet places wetter, we too need to change our ways and our relationship to water, because fresh, delicious, abundant water is not a given, not in any way, but rather a treasured resource to be treated with the utmost respect and care.

#VoteWithYourWallet and support businesses that have water saving measures in place, find them here.


Maybe it’s because of fairy tales, but children gain a keen sense of adventure when you head over any kind of mountain, perhaps they have this vision of another land opening up before their eyes when they crest the last rise. And it’s true, when you wind your way up the Outeniqua Pass, leaving the lush green of the coastal belt behind you, the Klein Karoo unfolds before you like a different land, one of folded grey hills, wide open spaces and big skies. The low grey-green scrubland also makes games like ‘I Spy’ much easier, you can see far and spot more animals, birds and… ostriches.

We have not yet succumbed to using screens as entertainment for road trips so we make up inventive word games and this time round we discovered the most unexpected entertainment for little hands and minds, you are never going to guess what it is!

Knitting, yes knitting was a complete win, luckily my 7 and 9 year old had both already been taught the ins and outs (pun intended) at their school as one of their crafts, because if I had had to teach them simultaneously from the front seat while whizzing through the countryside, let’s just say the road trip would not have been quite as successful as it was. But somehow the inevitable restlessness of children strapped into a car for hours was incredibly eased by their hands having something rhythmic and productive to do and they could multi-task by also looking out the window and playing word games or just simply sitting in happy silence with the needles clicking to the obligatory road trip music. And no I don’t have two girls, my 7 year old boy absolutely loves the satisfaction of seeing his knitted scarf grow in length through his doing alone and he has no inkling of gender stereo-typing when it comes to knitting, long may it last.

Road trips with kids are always better when divided up into bite sized chunks (like 3 hours), but no matter the length of the journey the joy of arriving at the destination is always the same. We pulled up to our wooden cabin on the vlei at De Zeekoe Guest Farm just outside Oudtshoorn and the children reveled in exploring our cosy home for the next two nights. And as we settled ourselves on the stoep to soak in the view we knew we had come to a good place to rest our souls when a pair of Fish Eagles welcomed us with their calls. What more could you ask for? And De Zeekoe ticked so many happy holiday boxes for the children, they could canoe on the vlei and visit the bird island where the fish eagles nested, ride their bikes easily and freely down the farm roads, stoke the evening fire in the huge indoor hearth and most of all, what all children wish for, is the time and space to have mom and dad’s undivided attention for card games and ball games, storytime and together time. We always try to keep phone use to a bare minimum, if it at all, on road trips with our kids, it makes all the difference to their world.






And De Zeekoe ticked so many boxes for me too in terms of a holiday with a conscience. I love the fact that they empower and upskill all the local families on the farm to work and manage the guesthouse and they have also set up a school, for all the neighbouring farm children too.

It’s one of the many reasons they are Fair Trade certified, employing and upskilling local people is a crucial key to the health and wellbeing of our country in terms of local economic development.

De Zeekoe guesthouse and farm employs, houses and educates 22 families! They also see the value in supporting local producers and while their breakfast buffet is sublime (you have to try the carrot quiche and tomato tartlets!) it just takes it to another level for me that the eggs are locally sourced and free range. Now if only my children would appreciate the concept of a diverse and delicious breakfast buffet and not simply go for the corn flakes because they don’t get them at home. We had a good laugh…three bowls of corn flakes later!




But I’ve skipped to the breakfast before telling you about our most exciting adventure at De Zeekoe! Holidays are not usually associated with early mornings, but this was definitely worth getting up before sunrise for. We bundled ourselves, beanies and all, into the car to get to the meeting spot for Meerkat Adventures by 6am then drove in convoy to the nature area not far from the R62. Tea and rusks, sunrise over the scrublands and before we knew it we were sitting in a semicircle of camp chairs right next to a meerkat burrow. And then we waited. You see we were up earlier than the meerkat family. You have to be or else you will never spot them while they are out foraging in the wide open spaces, this particular family has over 20 burrows to choose from to lay their weary heads every evening, that is one seriously vast area they cover. The excitement of seeing the first head pop out of the burrow was immense and we really had to pinch ourselves because it does seem dreamlike to sit in the wild watching wild meerkats go about their morning sun worshipping ritual while completely ignoring you (unless you sneeze!)




For anyone who is keen to give their children (and themselves) animal encounter experiences where the animals are not caged, not interacted with or interfered with and are able to go about their natural rhythms in their natural environment then Meerkat Adventures is definitely one for the bucket list.

The guides were so incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about conservation, but I won’t spoil it for you by telling you all the delightful nuggets of meerkat info and how these magical encounters have been made possible, beyond saying it involves years of passion and patience. I will never forget watching the pregnant mommy meerkat lean back with her front paws rested on her rounded belly just like we do, or the way the little ones played and rough tumbled – to give my children the gift of this experience was priceless.




Some tips for taking kids to experience the meerkats with Meerkat Adventures

  • Children need to be able to sit still and quiet for a few hours so it is definitely not recommended for little ones.
  • They recommend children be over the age of 10, the high pitched voices of children remind the meerkats of an alarm call to danger, this is especially enforced over busy season time.
  • It’s a very good idea to have something quiet for the children to do while waiting for or sitting with the meerkats (we sat for over 2 hours). And what am I going to recommend? You guessed it, knitting was an amazing activity that kept the children’s hands occupied but still allowed them to be present. Any hand craft like that would be similarly useful. Screens would not be recommended because of the noise and the focus would be removed from the magical meerkats.

To book at De Zeekoe for B&B rooms, self catering, dinner or meerkat tours (you get a discount when you are a De Zeekoe guest) visit their Eco Atlas page. Even the self catering cabins have a cleaning service (with biodegradable cleaning agents of course) which further adds to the holiday relaxation element.

To book directly with Devey Glinister and the Meerkat Adventures team simply visit their website.

Happy roadtripping, ours didn’t end there, we still went to Die Hel and back, but that is a story about going over a mountain for another day….

P.S. if you would like to make your road trip as zero waste as possible, here are a few things to have in the car with you for those inevitable food stops where you are given polystyrene parcels and plastic straws…

  • a few tupperwares and food containers for takeaways
  • reusable water bottles to fill up along the way
  • reusable straws, glass or stainless steel
  • some cutlery so that you can say no to the plastic ones
  • reusable shopping bags

You will be amazed at how willing all the roadside food stops are to comply with your planet saving ways!

Lisl Barry, Stories from a Rural Home, Gamkaberg Reserve, Klein Karoo

A Fine Artist and author of “52 Ways To Grow Creative Children” Lisl lives on the CapeNature reserve which her husband manages with their two daughters aged 12 and 14. Their closest town is Oudtshoorn.


My quest to reduce my landfill waste came about when we moved to the reserve in 1993 (I was then 22 years old). Managing one’s waste by recycling, makes one acutely aware of how MUCH pointless trash one “produces” – recycleable or not. I’ve been trying various options over the years, not quite eliminating our waste all together but certainly amazed at how much one can reduce if mindful. It sometime takes a little extra effort but becomes a lifestyle habit. We generally have no tin waste, very little glass but plastic is trickier…


So let’s talk easy solutions for Plastic Free JulyI have 3 reusable, washable shopping bags which are designed to fold into themselves like a raincoat tucked into it’s hood and pulled tight. They fit snugly into my small handbag and are made of parachute material, which means they are really strong and durable (I’ve had mine for a number of years). Because they live in my handbag I never get to supermarket check-outs and realise I’ve left my shopping bags in the car boot! (Well – 98% of the time – then I’ll carry in my arms, my beanie (much to the horror of my teenage daughter!) or in the trolley.)

Keeping food making real, fresh and homemade…this eliminates plastic packaging like nothing else. It’s a healthier option for my family anyway as we avoid the preservatives, high sugared content and artificial additives too. I’ve not bought shop bread for years since we bake our own. No more plastic bread bags and white plastic sealing clips. Stoneground flour comes in paper bags. We make our own yoghurt, kimchi, popcorn, dips/spreads, ice-lollies and meals of course. Time consuming, sure (and I don’t always have it readily) but it becomes a way of life and worth the effort. Since we very rarely get take outs (and then try for the paper/card boxed contained options), we don’t generate non-recycleable polystyrene container waste either.

We have a selection of glass or BPA-free plastic bottles which have been a life saver many a summer’s day whether on a walk, sports event or on a hot drive home. Again, they last for years. No need to buy overpriced bottled water. We juice our own fresh/green juice. Our kids have grown up drinking water rather than juice or coldrinks, so it’s the norm – bought drinks are a rarity.

out in the karoo countryside2The joy of living in a rural area – I’ve found shops where I can take my own glass bottles to refill honey and olive oil, so I don’t have to buy new every time. Cheaper too! I don’t use cling wrap (which is non-recyclable). I bought a set of glass storage bowls of varying sizes which come with matching snap-on lids for fridge storage. Or use a pot lid to cover left-overs!

From household goods to wood glue, we buy in bulk. Buying in bulk helps reduce the amount of plastic packaging one has to purchase. I use mostly vinegar and bicarb for cleaning and microbial dishcloths – so it’s simple anyway. And I make my own wood polish.

Using the reusable menstrual cup has been a life changing, reducing-my-impact discovery! A way more comfortable one too. No monthly landfill waste.

The not so easy solutions….Avoiding the pre-packed veg (polystyrene punnets and cling wrap) and thin plastic veg bags… I choose to shop where one can select loose goods that source directly from the smaller farmers, and therefore fresh, and where one can choose to buy loose over bulk-packaged produce. Some veg are hard to get un-pre-packaged because they do this to retain freshness, like cucumbers, but I’ve found if you ask (even at Food Lover’s Market where they may have pre-packaged lettuce for example) they often have loose in the storeroom. One can’t be in a hurry however!

Buying dry produce from a wholesaler is the ideal to get around pre-packaged goods, however these are far and few between in a small dorpie. I find I have to forage around for shops that can oblige and I have to plan ahead and stock up. Not always easy and I don’t always get it right. Our local health shop will package the dry produce that they buy in bulk into paper bags for me – but then I need to buy bigger quantities and I need time while they do it. Recently I’ve discovered a new shop at the Sedgefield Market (open week days not just Saturday) called the Green Road. They sell loose (organic) lentils, rice, etc where you can take your own bottle or paper bags. But this is of course far from where we live and although we regularly go to the coast it’s not always convenient.

Sometimes I do wonder if all this effort is going to make an ounce of difference in a world consumed by pointless waste but then I believe we have to start somewhere. Why not with ourselves… and besides I live by the philosophy : Be the change you wish to see (with varying success!)


Subscribe to the blog to get the next Plastic Free Challenge episodes….

plastic free header pic


Collective solutions from all our stories…every little thing we do adds up and it all counts…it’s not easy to change habits and plastic packaging is everywhere, but the more of us who say NO to single-use plastic the easier it becomes…living a healthy, plastic free life is really difficult and expensive, this needs to change and we CAN change it….and sharing our stories is powerful, we are not alone, we inspire each other and we can take back our power as consumers to create healthy communities and a healthy planet. Who’s in?


 [You can search for places that are recycling or using eco packaging on  Eco Atlas and here are some other plastic free wins you should definitely check out – GreenHome, StreamStraws, FreshBag, The Candylwood Store and more…]

plastic free header pic
Going Plastic Free in July has been an interesting and eye opening experience for many of us, so I thought it would be really valuable to have all our stories in one place so we can recognise the similarities in the difficulties we face when attempting a plastic free lifestyle and share solutions and ideas to overcome them.

What will follow is a series of six episodes, a collection of real stories from around the country to document the experiences of those who have risen to the challenge and what they have discovered as difficulties and solutions, specific to where they live, because our solutions vary quite a lot depending on whether we live rurally or in a big city. So we have episodes from rural living in the Klein Karoo, from inner city living in Cape Town, from a working class suburb in Port Elizabeth, from a small town on the Garden Route and then more from the suburbs of Cape Town.

The bottom line though and a common thread that runs through all our stories is that it hasn’t been easy! The onslaught of plastic at every turn seriously limits one’s choices and it’s going to take a lot of us using our consumer power to demand more plastic free options. But taking the month long challenge was also about nurturing new habits and new possibilities and it has been incredibly heartening to see the interest in Plastic Free July throughout South Africa, the time is so ripe for action and positive change, really and truly we can do this thing – we can collectively create a future we can all believe in, one where the well being of people and all life on the planet comes first.

Sharing our stories is powerful, we are not alone, we inspire each other and we can take back our power as consumers to create healthy communities and a healthy planet. Join us on this plastic free challenge storytelling journey… (subscribe to the blog to make sure you receive all the episodes over the next month)


[Did you know… you can specifically search for places that are recycling or using eco packaging on  Eco Atlas? And here are some other plastic free wins you should definitely check out – GreenHome, StreamStraws, FreshBag, The Candylwood Store and more…]

Celebrating the Change Makers…Eco Atlas Discounts for Going Plastic Free

Did your business take up the Plastic Free July challenge this year? Tell us how it went in the comments below and you could receive a 50% discount on your Eco Atlas company listing, which you could use for your own business or you could identify a small business that deserves the recognition for their eco and empowerment practices.

Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas

You know you have come to a good place to rest, unwind and let your gaze softly adjust to the horizon when the lizards sunning themselves on the deck are so at ease with your presence they almost shuffle up to make space for you, even though you have your very own and inviting deck lounger to fall into and thereby join the sun worshippers and their stillness. Farm 215 is the kind of place where not only the lizards are at ease, but the leopards are too, as are the multitude of rare Fynbos species and thriving life associated with them. You see it covers 800 ha of protected nature reserve and so the entire complex web of life from leopard to lizard and everything in between feels safe, in this Overberg haven, to go about their natural rhythms and sun lounging, as are you.


A great escape from the city, Farm 215 banks up against the mountains behind Gansbaai which makes it just a two hour drive from Cape Town and before you know it you will find yourself in one of the sun drenched fynbos suites. The suites are completely off grid and in fact Farm 215 was the first guesthouse in the Western Cape to install solar panels, thankfully now more and more places are seeing the long term benefits of harnessing sun energy. The suites are simply and beautifully designed to give one a sense of space and tranquility with a full wall of windows looking  onto the uninterrupted vista of the Agulhas Plains. Yet they also have a fireplace for winter getaways and with all the alien clearing that is a constant conservation coup, there is no end to the wood available.


So whether you feel like lounging like a lizard on the deck of your suite, at the Zen pool area, or in front of the fire you can expect your worldly worries to evaporate into the great open spaces surrounding you. And you don’t need to wander far to experience the ever changing seasonal glories of the Fynbos flowers, they are right under your nose, but to fully feel the fresh air flowing through your body there are breathtaking hikes and horse rides exploring the landscape from mountain to sea. Then relax with a glass of local red wine in the fire warmed dining space which serves breakfast, lunch and supper. Sound like a retreat for mind, body and soul? It is.

Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


IMG_3233 (Copy)


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


IMG_3292 (Copy)


Farm 215 on Eco Atlas



Farm 215 on Eco Atlas


To book your getaway at Farm 215 Private Nature Reserve visit their Eco Atlas page


In conversation with Maarten Groos, the changemaker who owns Farm 215…

maarten Groos of Farm 215


Maarten speaks with deep passion for the land and his enthusiasm for his reforestation project is palpable – “It feels a bit like love, you know when you fall in love with someone you think about them all the time. When I’ve planted some trees I fall asleep with the image of what that forest will grow to be later.” He explains that the deep heartbeat of nature is easily felt when walking on Farm 215 and the reason he enjoys running a sustainable guesthouse and retreat is that the kind of people that come to stay are those that hear the heartbeat too.

When asked what needs to change Maarten responded with’ “ The mentality needs to change, where we as humans focus on our well being rather than on the maximisation of profit – we need to look to the future with trust instead of dread.” And what is Maarten doing about this? He’s planting trees of course.

You can offset your travel to your Farm 215 getaway by purchasing a tree with the Trees for Tourism reforestation project and Maarten will make sure it joins the ever growing forest.



More ideas for winter getaways…



If you would like to turn your Overberg winter getaway into a road trip there are other fabulous places to stay at that are also doing their bit for people and planet in a range of positive ways. Have a look at Grootbos, White Shark Guesthouse, Greyton Ecolodge, Poespasrivier Cottage and the Potato Patch Self Catering Cottage for a range of different budgetary options.







Or why not take a road trip up the Wild Coast, you know you want to…stopping at the incredible range of places achieving both eco and empowerment wonders. You could start at Buccaneers famous for its hospitality and views. Then on to Peas on Earth where Permaculture is at play, as are horses. Continue on to Bulungula, Wild Lubanzi and then Mdumbi,  all of whom are on the coast, community empowering and will give you the sense of freedom only the Wild Coast can. When are you leaving?


Apish Thsethsa in Muizenberg, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Apish Thsethsa in Muizenberg, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Waves For Change, founded by Ashoka Fellow Tim Conibear in Masiphumelelo in 2011, is a project that provides surf therapy to young South Africans from violent communities. These are youths who are exposed to a myriad of problems, and who suffer from acute emotional/physical stress, which in turn fosters learning disabilities, behavioral problems and often times social exclusion, W4C aims to break this down by using surfing as a means of therapy. David met with Apish Thsethsa on a cold and stormy winter’s afternoon, before one of the sessions with the young kids to talk more about this amazing project and of course his journey to becoming one of the leaders of this award-winning programme, which started small with only 10 children in one community and now has around 250 children in three communities (Masiphumelelo, Lavender Hill and Monwabisi).   Seeing Apish interacting with the kids illustrates that they have a healthy respect for him. After taking shelter from the passing squalls and wind in my car, we spoke about the positive effects that surfing has on one’s self,

“Surfing changes your perception of life, where taking risks has consequences, when you catch a wave, you don’t just catch a wave, you have to have a vision of what you are going to do, are you going to go left or right, what are you going to do on the wave”,

this is something Apish thinks can be applied to our lives as we need to understand that all actions have consequences whether they are good or bad. “Waves for Change is a self development programme that uses surfing as its foundation”, in doing this Waves for Change is helping kids gain coping skills to deal with tragic events that are brought about through broken homes and broken backgrounds; it gives the kids a sense of belonging as well as being able to master a platform where they are trying new things and experiences, and the independence to make choices for themselves. “You are looking after yourself and surrounding yourself with a healthy environment”, adds Apish.

Why do you do what you do? “I was once a young kid, and I would like kids to follow the same path”,

Apish has been able to travel all around South Africa, as well as the UK to take part in a SUP (stand up Paddle) event and all of this has been possible because of surfing.

One tip? “Ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu [a person is a person through other people], always be generous, self aware and conscious of what is happening and what you can do”

“Surfing changes your perception of life," says Apish Thsethsa ©David Peter Harris

“Surfing changes your perception of life,” says Apish Thsethsa ©David Peter Harris

Get in touch with Waves for Change and find out more about their active projects.

Dumisile Mqadi and I sat on the rooftop terrace of Happy Hippo, the funky eco-friendly backpackers in downtown Durban.   Dumi has been working for Happy Hippo and its sister lodge, Hippo Hide, for more than 6 years. She started off as a cleaning lady, but that was only the beginning.   “One day, I walked past Michelle Brooks’ office while I was carrying the laundry. Michelle came to me and asked me if I wanted to try and work downstairs at reception. I thought she was joking, so I said “No”, giggling. She told me I should try it out for a month and see how it was; I didn’t believe her, but I saw my name on the schedule for the next month and I saw that I had been put down as a receptionist for some days, and others as a cleaner. I just wanted to quit; I was scared and shy, I wanted to stay at home; I didn’t know what to say. I felt I was not educated enough, I was just a cleaning lady.”

Dumi's contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

Dumi’s contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

“I did eventually go, and my first shift as a receptionist was at Hippo Hide – I had a night shift, and as all first days I wasn’t too sure about how things worked, and there was nobody to tell me how I was doing. In the morning, Mike (Brooks) came and welcomed me to my new job. He told me he trusted me and he didn’t want to hang around because he knew I would be shy to help people in front of him. After two months, Michelle asked me if she could put me reception full time, but I said I wanted to go back to work as a cleaning lady. I was still very scared and I thought I belonged to that job only. My colleagues in the office were amazing because they treated me as equal and wanted to assist me and help me with any requests, so I chose to stay instead. I owe it to them where I am now; they helped me stick to it and grow confidence.”

“I am not going to lie; I am still very shy and scared. I still feel like I am new here and not educated to do this; our teamwork helps me overcome my insecurities.”   “Any tips to empowerment I would like to share? We all come from different families, but respect is universal. When you’re unsure, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I can’t stress that enough. Be humble and accept being lead and not leading sometime. If you want to do something, you have to fight for it, you can’t sit around but work for a better future.”

“I am so proud of what I have done; I wish I could do more now”. Dumi is planning to further her education, and she is pondering whether to study Tourism or Education. “I always thank Michelle and Mike for seeing the potential in me.”   “Deep rivers run quiet”, says Haruki Murakami, and Dumi is a reminder that the humble choices we make every day build up to a better self and a better community.

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe - rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe – rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris


Irene Dell from Stellar Foundation at one of the estates during the launch of the off-the-grid project ©David Peter Harris.

Irene Dell from Stellar Foundation at one of the estates during the launch of the off-the-grid project ©David Peter Harris.


A few years ago I noticed a funky new wine brand at the bottle store; a red wine with a very interesting label called Live a Little. Quirky on the outside, this  wine was produced by Stellar Winery, South Africa’s largest producer of fine organic and fair trade wines. At the time, Stellar was one of the only of its kind for its innovation in winemaking (holding the organic certification and being vegan friendly) as well as its focus on people and their social empowerment.

The Live a Little label was on my mind during our drive to the cellar, situated at Kyshalte, just outside Vredendal in the Western Cape. I was about to put a whole lot of new faces to the name Stellar and it was exciting. I had been in contact with Irene Dell, a longstanding and empowering employee of Stellar Foundation, a non-profit organisation, and we had been invited to the launch of the renewable energy project.

On our arrival, Irene and I sat at her desk and she quickly briefed me on some of the social projects the Stellar Foundation runs; the projects are intended for the workers, their families and the communities within the area ranging from a free primary health care scheme, a judo club to vegetable gardens, a crèche in Trawal as well as the latest off-the-grid project. Irene’s passionate words made me realize how close she was to the issues we were touching on. One of the only women in a mainly man-workforce, I asked her what her secret is.

“I listen to what people’s needs are and I am familiar with their conditions and situations. Because of cultural differences, one should be careful not to impose ideas from one’s own cultural situation on others but see how a dialogue can bring issues and options up. Our biggest thing is to satisfy needs while communicating the responsibility on the other side. Giving responsibly paves the way for sustainability.”


The Consol lights are Phase I of Stellar's off-the-grid project. ©David Peter Harris

The Consol lights are Phase I of Stellar’s off-the-grid project. ©David Peter Harris


Stellar Multi-estate sources organic grapes from independent farms, which, together with the cellar, bottling and packaging plant make up a Fair Trade structure, Stellar Winery Multi-Estate. Workers on the farms and in the winery, including seasonal workers, together own 26% of the enterprise through shares in the Stellar Empowerment Trust. Irene, David and I spent the afternoon together, driving from one estate to another, officially launching Phase I of the off-the-grid project, which involved distributing the Consol solar-powered lights. I loved seeing Irene interacting with the workers. She totally gets them and cares so deeply about their upliftment and personal growth.

“We are not out to change the world. We are only hoping to better lives with what we do. It’s the small, the  little things we do”.

That night we were hosted by Willem Rossouw, Managing Director of Stellar, and his family. While sitting at the dinner table eating a typical Weskus snoek dish with fresh, homemade beer bread, I expressed my deep admiration for the  range and quality of the social upliftment projects that are ongoing.  William replied saying that “The most important project is the one you cannot see”, referring to the portion of the business the workers own through the Fair Trade shares. Agreed.

Everything about this short visit made a sound impression;  the affectionate relationships at the cellar, the motivation to improve lives in the area and the softness interwoven in it. Before Irene and I parted, she added something, which exemplifies her loving and passionate nature.

“There are always solutions to problems, you just have to ask nicely and they will turn up”.


Farm workers preparing and clearing the vineyards of any weeds or plants that will hinder their organic production©David Peter Harris

Farm workers preparing and clearing the vineyards of any weeds or plants that will hinder their organic production©David Peter Harris


I personally came a long way from the first Live a Little bottle label, and I spent the drive back thinking of the kind of impact we make, even when shopping for wine.

Get in touch Stellar Organic Winery via their Eco Atlas page and vote with your wallet when next you’re scanning the shelves for a good wine….