On 12 January 2015, the Ga Kgatla Soil and Water Conservation project commenced, with James Nkgoeng acting as the Community Officer. The project was monitored from the Presidency Office, although it was managed by the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA).
The aim of this project was to protect the local community and their property against excessive storm water which had been flowing in from a nearby mountain. The secondary aim was to prevent soil erosion, whilst conserving rain water by trapping and storing it by means of a contour dam for the purpose of animal consumption. Soil erosion would be achieved through the reduction of overgrazing by local livestock.
In order to achieve these project aims, the Limpopo Department of Agriculture embarked on a programme in which they sought to educate villagers about the importance of complying with agricultural requirements which relate to animal ownership, as well as availability and capacity of the local grazing area.
When it came to constructing the storm water canal, there were certain trees which needed to be kept in mind. Ga Kgatla village is home to various species of trees and amongst them, are those which enjoy government protection, such as the Marula and Shepard trees. Therefore, in constructing this storm water canal, The Mvula Trust ensured that the design of the canal was revised in order to ensure that very little impact would be placed on these trees.
The canal’s width was changed from 10m to 24.4m and the depth was also made to be shallower in order to create the gentle side slopes of the canal. This gentle slope allowed the constructor to work easily around protected trees resting within the canal route, thereby leaving 95% of these trees undisturbed.
This change in design was also aimed at allowing for animal movement across and at the back of the constructed storm water canal, while making it easy for the appointed contactor to achieve maximum compaction on the inner part of the canal.
Machinery used for the project, such as TLBs and tipper trucks, were procured from locals, with the village’s 200 residential units being kept in mind.
Like any project, this one had its challenges. Social and cultural matters had to be balanced with occupational safety requirements on site, as women refused to wear the provided work trousers. After a long engagement, The Mvula Trust and the contractor managed to settle on a solution, which was that the younger generation would comply while the elders were allowed to wear work trousers underneath their own long dresses, and had to be kept away from machinery at all times.
Another challenge was that local unrest was seen to be emanating from a political grappling between a newly appointed Headman and an outgoing one. Although this condition created an unsettling atmosphere for The Mvula Trust and our contractor, it did not really affect the project in any way, indicating the political maturity of this community.
The project is scheduled for completion within three months from December 2014 to February 2015, and despite all challenges, The Mvula Trust managed to complete 80% of this project, with the remaining 20% of work set for completion before the end of March 2015. The delay was caused by the change in scope ( for example, width of the canal changing from 10m to 24.4m and forestry legal requirements on protected trees).
Overall, the project has restored dignity to many households of the Ga Kgatla village, making it a huge success for The Mvula Trust.