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Artist Zukiswa Zitha photographed in front of the Umlibo artwork.

Zukiswa Zitha

Climate change and environmental impacts

The Eastern Cape is home to over three-million cattle, and for Zukiswa Zitha from Hamburg’s neighbouring village of Ntlini, these bovine creatures punctuate a landscape that is shifting in front of her eyes.
Human-induced climate change and pollution worry her, but she did not always understand why things were changing and she imagines how things will shift even more by the time her grandson, now six, is an adult.
“You find that people litter and drop plastic. A cow then chews the plastic, and it is very bad for them. The plastic damages the insides of livestock, she says.
Around the urban metropole of East London, some 1.5 hours from her home, she has often noticed piles of rubbish gathering and nobody removing it, so she worries about the environment.
Environmental hazards, from pollution to soil erosion, are made worse by climate change.
She has also noticed increased soil erosion after unseasonal storms, and after hearing of the deadly floods in the neighbouring province of KwaZulu-Natal in 2022, she worries about an event in the future when the untarred roads get washed away in Hamburg.
“When a storm that bad comes to our area, the roads won’t be accessible. We are scared,” she says.
Zukiswa has two adult daughters – one studying in the Free State and one working in security in the Eastern Cape – and she says of her grandchild, “My thinking is that when my six-year-old grandson grows up, he won’t know the world that we see now. These young children will experience the regular effects of what is happening at the time they are grownups, and I think everything will be worse.”
Unemployment has increasingly stalked the region and, she says, “it’s not like before when we used to have our own food gardens to feed the family because now there are many challenges with the weather.”
Because of the Keiskamma Art Project, of which Zukiswa has been part since it began two decades ago in the year 2000, she has earned her living doing embroidery, bookbinding and printmaking. When Keiskamma came together with WWF in 2023 to run climate change workshops and create an artwork on this very topic, her awareness of climate impacts grew.
“That is when we lifted our heads and said that the things we are noticing around us are because of what is called climate change.”


  • Climate change is expected to worsen the frequency, intensity and impacts of extreme weather events.
  • These extreme weather events are often under-reported in Africa: The 2022 KZN floods killed at least 460 people, while in the same year, Tunisia experienced major wildfires, Uganda and Ethiopia were struck by drought and famine, and Nigeria and Chad also saw severe flooding.
  • According to research by various development agencies, those most affected by climate change are communities that are already vulnerable due to a variety of factors including poverty, spatial injustice, socio-economic marginalisation among others.

Zukiswa Zitha imagines how her environment will shift even more by the time the next generation has grown up.

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