Dundee teaches learners to embrace biodiversity
The launch took the form of a tree-identification challenge. It ran the course of three days and was open to learners from Grades 11 and 12 from Tsumeb high schools and a patrol of local Scouts who attended an afternoon orientation session followed by a day-long field exercise. The outdoor activity focused on identifying indigenous trees in the hills surrounding the Tsumeb Smelter, which is owned and operated by Dundee.
The event was intended to teach the young people how to use a dichotomous key. A dichotomous key is a tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items in the natural world, such as trees, wild flowers, mammals, reptiles, rocks and fish. Keys consist of a series of choices that lead the user to the correct name of a given item. “Dichotomous” means “divided into two parts.” Therefore, dichotomous keys always give two choices in each step.
Facilitating the challenge was internationally renowned Namibian botanist, Coleen Mannheimer, who has more than 20 years’ experience working with indigenous plants. Previously a researcher at the National Botanical Research Institute and curator of the National Herbarium. Mannheimer presently is a consultant conducting environmental assessments and baseline vegetation studies. She is also the editor, author and co-author of a number of well-known books on Namibian flora.
Theo Uvanga, environmental manager at Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb, said the students who took part in the activity made an excellent impression and were a pleasure to work with.
“Their standard of work was very high, and the results of the challenge were very close,” Uvanga said. “All the participating schools and the Tsumeb Scout Troop can be proud of their work, regardless of whether they finished in the top three or not,” he added.
Added Mannheimer, “These children showed a better grasp of the use of keys than some first-year university students.”
Etosha Secondary School won the challenge, with the Tsumeb Scouts in second place and Otjikoto Secondary School in third place. Etosha walked away with a stationary voucher valued at N$1500, second placed Tsumeb Scouts won a voucher valued at N$1000 and third placed Otjikoto won a voucher valued at N$500. The prizes were sponsored by Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb.
According to Uvanga, the biodiversity challenge will become an annual event as part of the smelter’s biodiversity management programme and its community outreach initiative aimed at raising awareness about biodiversity protection amongst young people.