By Cordula Gutekunst
Green Drinks Event on 18th of February 2016
The first Green Drinks event this year dealt with the connections between climate change, El Niño and the current drought in South Africa. Speaking at the event was Linda Phalatse, a climate change advisor for GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit or the German Society of International Corporation). Green Drinks is hosted by the African Climate Reality Project, a project of Food and Trees for Africa – South Africa’s first and only social enterprise that develops, promotes and facilitates greening, climate change action, food security and sustainable natural resource use and management.
The event can be seen as an information and discussion evening to share ideas and knowledge about certain topics and connect people from related sectors.
As a volunteer at Food and Trees for Africa it was my first time experiencing Green Drinks. I was really excited to learn about this interesting and important topic on one hand and host and be part of the organising team on the other.
We had plenty of preparation to do before the event even started. Green drinks does not only offer a presentation, it is also a coming together with food and drinks.
Thus, we had a lot of fun, cooking a tasty butternut soup together. The butternuts were harvested recently from one of Food and Trees for Africa’s organic farms. Food and Trees for Africa stands promotes a sustainable organic lifestyle, and this is represented at its Green Drinks events. The importance of healthy nutrition is a key point in the Food and Trees education agenda too.
In addition, I experienced having food and drinks at the event was really enjoyable as it created a pleasant atmosphere that allowed people to connect easily over a cup of soup or a glass of wine. Before the talk I was tasked with welcoming the attendees to the event. It was really enjoyable as most people were excited about the talk and looked forward to it.
Linda’s presentation itself was great. I liked to way she defined and explained the differences between climate change, El Niño and droughts and the link she drew between them. According to her climate change is something clearly caused by humans and thus unnatural, while El-Niño is part of the natural El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
Droughts are extreme weather events that can persist for years. They can be caused by natural patterns like a lack of rainfall, but recent cases may be connected to unsustainable water management, soil erosion, and accumulated pollution. Linda emphasised that drought is not only the absence of water in form of precipitation, but also impacts on human society. Lack of water does not only affect the planting of crops and the supply of safe drinking water, but can also cause a deterioration in hygiene and sanitary quality in communities with the spread of disease being a serious potential consequence.
Thus, natural and unnatural factors are influencing current weather patterns over South Africa and are unfortunately able to lead to crises like the drought that at least three provinces are currently experiencing. So as Linda says, there is indeed a connection, but one must remember to distinguish between the terms as cause and effect are easy to confuse.
All in all the Green Drinks event was not only fun to plan and prepare, but it was also informative and helpful for me. I really enjoyed the evening and learned something in addition. It was definitely a highlight during my time working for Food and Trees for Africa, which I won’t forget that quickly and a great good-bye as my volunteering time ends here for the time being.
Cordula Gutekunst is an undergraduate biology student at the Freie University of Berlin, Germany. Although her studies are quite broad throughout the whole field of biology, she developed a passion for sustainable agriculture and plant science. She is interested in how far changes in the environment affect plants, especially those on which humans rely on.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project.