Join Kalahari Harry on his adventurous travels as he shares tales on everything related to conservation, sustainable development and green solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa.
During a recent visit to the Waterberg on a consultation, I was absolutely blown away at the drought situation. Driving through Derdepoort, Thabazimbi and Vaalwater I saw signs of previous droughts, old derelict farming implements, overgrazed land of a cattle farming era gone by. It begged a question: when was the last time this place saw a drought like this? According to the locals and the fathers before them – 108 years ago.
Are we somehow better equipped to face drought? What has changed in the last 108 years and have we learnt from previous droughts?
The morning at the lodge started relatively painless. I was assessing the lodge’s water conservation efforts with the owner and his trusty sidekick – Rusty the Labrador. I have seen this so many times, visiting the various sites, as most of us do, it’s a case of putting a plaster over a festering wound. So much roof space so little gutter and collection tanks. Endless streams of water being carried away to septic tanks and french/soak away drains never to be seen again.
At about 10 am it was hotter than a conversation between Pravin Gordan and Shaun Abrahams. We ploughed on till just after 12 when we called it quits, giving into the screams of my pale skin and sandpaper throat. Retreating to the bar area and trying not to look like Tom Hanks from Cast Away, I politely requested a refreshing beverage from the barman.
It was at this point when I noticed out the corner of my eye, while still sucking the last bit of cold liquid from the can, Africa’s very own Unicorn. Typically and unapologetically larger than life – the White Rhino.
The rhinos were kept in a safe part of the reserve due to the ongoing poaching. This presented a unique opportunity of viewing these magnificent beasts up close and having previous experience of approaching rhino on foot, I jumped at the invitation to get a closer look.
As we got closer keeping the watering hole between us and the rhino, an unexpected guest arrived… Rusty the Labrador! Now Rusty wasn’t about to share his favourite watering hole with his new neighbours, and proceeded to bark at said 2.3 ton herbivore. At first the rhino seemed unperturbed by this verbal attack and stood quietly observing the loud obnoxious beast. Rusty wasn’t having any of it and gave charge. It was at this point that we realised: we messed up. Too late to make a leisurely retreat from the situation we bolted away from the world’s first organic wrecking ball.
Frantically looking for a place of safety away from the charging rhino I spotted my one chance at survival – a knee length sized perimeter wall. Leaping like a gracious gazelle over the knee high wall my toe unfortunately clipped the protruding decorative granite rock on top of the wall… The next few seconds is quite a blur but I remember a lot of dust and pain emanating from every part of my body. As the dust settled and the pain increased I took quick stock of any protruding bones or blood, but thankfully I was left largely unscathed. Seeing the rhino run off into the bush and Rusty quietly chewing on an old bone, I realised a few truths when it comes to the human condition:
- We have tendency to wait for the dung to hit the fan before doing something about it,
- We are always pushing the boundaries of what is considered safe, and
- We seldom make plan for the unexpected.
Later that evening while standing on the deck, observing the sunset and contemplating the day’s events, I thought of what the farmer could have done in previous years to alleviate the impact of the current drought he is having on his property.
What we do today will not necessarily be our problem tomorrow, but what does it look like a 108 years from now? We have the opportunity to be good stewards with what we were given today, and this will change the way future generations live in the years to come.