News / 22 May 2014

From polluted wetland to botanical garden in Cape Town

This week the brand new South-African website ‘EMG’s Untold Stories’ was launched. On the website, author Leonie Joubert gives a voice to different people who work to improve their environment, together with the South African organization ‘Environmental Monitoring Group’ (EMG). Each of the four stories collected by Joubert focuses on a different aspect of the work EMG does to ensure that South African natural resources are managed in a sustainable and equitable way. The online book has been published as part of the Both ENDS’s project ‘An Untold Story’, which gives human rights and environmental organisations from four different corners of the world a chance to tell their story about the impact the global economy has on their local environment. 


Township Makhaza

The first story on the website, ‘Makhaza: This is my Kirstenbosch’, is about a wetland littered with garbage on the edge of a township in Cape Town. The neighbourhood of Makhaza used to be a hotbed for criminality, where people lived in the economic margins of South-African society. Back then, Makhaza was a place where domestic violence was a day-to-day affair and criminals occasionally dumped bodies into the swamp.


The story starts with a small-scale initiative of a group of women against street- and domestic violence. After a successful campaign, which significantly reduced the violence, the same group decided to tackle the pollution problem in Makhaza. With the help of Both ENDS’ partner EMG, they succeeded in cleaning up most of the polluted wetland. Although the water is still too polluted to be used for irrigation purposes, the inhabitants of Makhaza have a reason to be proud of their neighbourhood again.


An untold story

On behalf of Both ENDS, Masja Helmer is closely involved with ‘an Untold Story’. “A story like the one from township Makhaza shows that small-scale initiatives can truly make a difference in the lives of people from poor communities. In general, such grass roots groups do not need large amounts of money to do their work.” Both ENDS has had a long working relationship with the four organisations from Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South-Africa and Brazil that participate in the Untold Story-project. These organisations are so-called ‘small grants funds’ that raise funds from major donors and funders in order to divide these sums among smaller organisations and grass-roots groups. This is how they ensure that the money reaches the people and local groups that need it most.


“But of course, in order to attract funds and donors themselves, these ‘small grant funds’ must be able to show the actual results of the work they support.  Our project ‘an Untold Story’, which has been realised with a gift from the Dutch ‘National Postal code Lottery’ (NPL), enables these four organisations to train themselves to effectively communicate the stories of the groups they support to the outside world. EMG’s website shows the results! I sincerely hope that these wonderful stories help the organisation raise the funds they need to continue their great work in South-Africa.”


The brand new ‘Untold Stories’ from South Africa can be found here.


All stories are told in a different way. In addition to the story about Makhaza, you can read a comic strip about fictional farmer Kobus February, while another story is told through blog posts.


You can also read the ‘Untold Stories’ from Russia and Brazil on our website:

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