Environmental champions honoured

Professor Michelle Cocks, Head of the Anthropology Department, delivers her keynote address
Professor Michelle Cocks, Head of the Anthropology Department, delivers her keynote address

By Boitumelo Nte, PGDip in Journalism student


The Rhodes University Environmental Committee held its annual Environmental Awards ceremony at Eden Grove on 25 September. The Awards, now in their 10th year, aim to recognise achievements in the environmental sector at the University and in the greater Makhanda community that highlight measures to protect and sustain the environment. 

Moreover, the Awards aim to show Rhodes University’s commitment to environmental best practices, and its strides in adopting sustainable policies that support environmental conservation, including efforts in sustainable energy, reducing waste, and sustainable water management.

The Environmental Committee’s Professor Hugo Nel, who is also Head of Rhodes University’s Economics and Economic History Department, presided over the Awards. He said that the ceremony would recognise winners in an individual category as well as a department/institute/section category. Prof Nel introduced guest speaker, Associate Professor Michelle Cocks, Head of the Anthropology Department.

Professor Cocks, speaking on the topic ‘Decolonisation of Nature in Town and Cities of South Africa’, explored the issue of “urban nature”, which is a constituent area of her work on bio-cultural diversity, and particularly her research into the influences of nature on human identity, belonging, and well-being in rural and urban settings.

The winner of the individual category was Mr Chad Keates of the Department of Zoology and Entomology. Keates is a PhD candidate in genetic herpetology, and an animal conservation activist who is popularly known for his educational talks on the treatment of reptiles and his callout service for the removal of snakes from properties in town and on campus.

The Environmental Committee said that Keates’ endeavours show an outstanding response to the University’s commitment to conserving biodiversity, and increasing local community responsibility to the environment. In accepting the award, Keates said that he appreciates the recognition his work is getting in enlightening the community on the importance of reptiles in well-functioning ecosystem.

Winner in the department/institute/section category was The Environmental Health and Biotechnology Research (EHB) Group, which falls under Rhodes University’s Department of Pharmacy. The EHB focuses on water, sanitation and wastewater treatment, and was chosen for its water-quality standard restoration programmes carried out in Makhanda. Makhanda considers EHB an excellent ally in its sustainability efforts, especially in water-quality and sanitation projects.

EHB representative, Senior Lecturer at the Pharmacy Department Dr Nosiphiwe Ngqwala, said that the ceremony highlighted a good day in the life of the group, who have put in immense hard work to ensure the successes of its projects over the years. EHB was founded in 2008 by Pharmacy’s Associate Professor, Roman Tandlich.

Both category awards were presented by the University Registrar, Dr Adele Moodly, who congratulated the awardees, and commended them on their contributions to Rhodes University’s commitment to environmental affairs amid the world’s numerous threats and crises. The awards were also attended by Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, and members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) scholars’ group, who were attending an on-campus lecture week on sustainable environmental development at the Environmental Research Learning Centre (ELRC).