On the 5th May 1989, the South African Post Office issued a series of stamps to highlight the National Grazing Strategy. Internal postage for ordinary letters at the time was 18 cents and the image, designed by Denis Murphy, is a frightening one titled Mensgemaakte woestyn (Man-made desert).
The 30 cent one is titled Die aarde breek (The earth breaks) and depicts the same scene some years later, when most of the earth has been eroded away to form a deep donga (a steep-sided gully formed by soil erosion – an Afrikaans word that originated in the nineteenth century from Nguni donga, meaning washed out gully).
Here is an example of such a donga in the Addo Elephant National Park.
Before you blame the National Parks for negligence, bear in mind that this donga would have been on one of the original farms purchased to create this park.
Much is being done on farms, nature reserves and in national parks to curb the adverse effects of soil erosion. Examples include:
Planting Spekboom in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve:
The provision of gabions on top of and next to culverts under the road in the Great Fish River nature Reserve:
Breaking the flow of storm water run-off from the roads in the Mountain Zebra National Park:
A land rehabilitation project in the Mountain Zebra National Park:
Getting back to the stamps: I do not have copies at hand, but the 40 cent stamp, titled The helping hand, depicts a dam that has been built in that deep donga. The 50 cent stamp moves on by several years, by which time the dam is full and the area is grassed over – there is even a leafy tree growing in the foreground – I can’t help thinking this is wishful thinking combined with artistic licence! This one is aptly titled The land rejoices.
Let us all take care of the soil and the vegetation that covers it!