Category Archives: Kalahari Harry’s Blog

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)

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.

This month’s blog is hopefully more about some practical applications of how we can have less of an impact on our immediate environment. My hope is that we all start making a difference by doing something different than what our forefathers did. I hope that from the pictures below, you will see that times have changed, and your house could become the next space in which we lessen our impact.

While doing a tour in the Western Cape, I had some time to admire a colleague’s house which he is building from sustainable materials.

The story goes like this:

This colleague decided to buy a piece of land in Brackenfell area.  It has always been his dream to build a house that will spearhead the way for others. Being from an engineering background, it gave him the foundation from which to run his ideas.

The Walls

As you can see from the image, the walls are anything but standard. This came about after doing a soil density test and realising that the builder would have to go 2 meters down before hitting anything solid. This gave him the idea of building with sandbags.

The sand came from the excavation and the bags are made from recycled plastic bottles.  As you can see, the sandbags are placed inside a wooden frame for stability. Might I add that sand is also a great sound and heat insulator.

 

 

Keeping with the bees

As if all of this isn’t enough, my colleague is also an avid bee keeper – producing over 600kg of honey per year! He has fitted the cellar (which became available after he had to dig deeper than planned) with a sloped floor and a drainage line to reuse the water for the cleaning of equipment.

The Roof

One part of the roof of the house is flat.  The reason for this is that this allows for a roof garden that will help in keeping the temperature down. The rest of the roof is insulated with polystyrene that helps in keeping the house cool.

 

 

 

 

 

Windows (North West only)

By only installing windows on the North Western side of the house, keeps the house warm in the morning and cool in the afternoon.

Water 3 ways

The water supply plumbing is divided into 3 lines.  The red line is the warm water ring main (this is a process whereby warm water is kept in constant flow throughout the system via small efficient water pumps to ensure warm water on demand, thus decreasing wastage.)  The blue line is the Municipal water line that is used for potable use e.g. wash basins, showers, baths, and kitchens.  The green line is for rainwater that is used for all non-potable applications e.g. washing machines, toilets and non-potable taps for general use like washing of cars and irrigation.

This transpires into the following savings:

There are currently 2 occupants in the house using 12 000 Liters of water per month.  Of this 50-60% of this water that is used, is water that is caught from rainwater harvesting. By installing a 20 000 liter rainwater harvesting tank, it has cut the occupants dependency on municipality supplied water by 50%.   This to me is a no brainer, and most of us should at least have this as a starting point.

The toilet

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you… There is a basin on top of the toilet.  This nifty new toilet and basin combo is helping to use less water and to reuse the basin water.

 

Now I know none of us are going to break down our existing walls and start building with sandbags.  But we can certainly start by making small, affordable changes that will have an immediate impact on the way we live.  And better yet, we can inspire the next generation to start thinking out of the box to come up with great alternatives to decrease our footprint and impact on our immediate environment.

Comment below and share some of your own unique ideas in lessening our impact on the environment.

Till next time

 

 

 

Survival, success, significance

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. 

Out of the bush veld and into the concrete jungle for me this month. While the bush veld has its own challenges with the water scarcity, the city thinks it has water, but believes the water to be dirty and undrinkable. As we turn on the tap and the water just magically keeps on coming, makes us oblivious to the fact that we are facing a major water shortage – and as Murphy would have it, as I was about to rant and rave about the drought, the heavens open up and we receive rain in buckets!

Nevertheless, does this blessing from above somehow give us free licence to keep wasting water at will? Somewhere on my dark unapologetic side, I wished that the drought would continue.  Terrible as it may sound, I believe that we have not yet matured as a race to the point where we adapt before the pawpaw hits the fan.

Had it not been for our own farm and all the visits I did, which shows the devastating impact that it had. There is an Afrikaans saying: “As jy nie wil hoor nie dan moet jy voel – which means that if people don’t want to heed warnings they should feel the consequences of their actions.

Driving on the highway to yet another “we want to save water but we don’t want to spend money” client, I saw this water cooler delivery truck. Buckle up as I go down this rant!

The below picture is good indication of how water is becoming a commodity and no longer just a basic human right. So an 18.9L water dispenser jug goes roughly for about R50, plus delivery. One large corporation in Sandton has 50 of these towers being refilled every two days. Let’s see if my math still works. So in a month these guys use:

20 working days, divided by every two days =10 service days,  multiply that by 50 jugs = 500 jugs a month,  multiplied by R50 a jug = R25 000 for water to sustain 500 staff per month.

Multiply the jug capacity by the amount of jugs and you get 9450 litres a month at a cost of R2, 60 a litre! Shaking my head in absolute disbelief.

There is a way to better the use of water and save money.  I recently took such a company and showed them by installing under counter taps with a basic filtration system, with even better water quality and taste, at a mere 16 cents a litre… meaning that our dear friends are making a 1600% profit… that’s worse than E-toll any day of the month folks. Taking their monthly water bill from R25 000 down to R1 500 – yes you read correctly. No delivery van on the road causing carbon emissions, and no plastic bottles. Yet we somehow still keep worst practice. This technology is readily available and will literally save millions of Rand’s and more importantly, the environment.

It’s time we started saving water and bringing down the carbon footprint of water. Next times drought might not be so kind.

water-truck-secret

Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand. (Guinean proverb)

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:

  1. We have tendency to wait for the dung to hit the fan before doing something about it,
  2. We are always pushing the boundaries of what is considered safe, and
  3. 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.