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2018 WWF Prince Bernhard Scholar
Sive grew up in the rural village of Mtebele in Gcuwa (also known as Butterworth), in the Eastern Cape, where he stayed with his grandmother. Like many boys who grew up in homes with livestock, herding cattle was an everyday duty for Sive and his friends.
When he was growing up, he was not exposed to various career opportunities available to him; as a result, his dream was only to be employed one day. However, that changed in 2012 when he learnt that he could study Environmental Management.
He is now doing his Master of Technology degree in Environmental Management at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), investigating sustainable harvesting of Aloe ferox (bitter aloe) in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality in Port Elizabeth.
We spoke to Sive about his career journey, and how the WWF Prince Bernhard Scholarship (PBS) contributed to his professional development.
Tell us about your education journey.
I completed both my primary and high school in Gcuwa in the Eastern Cape.
I was not the brightest child in class, but I always did better in Geography and Life Sciences because I found them easier to understand than other subjects.
After matriculating in 2011, I moved to Khayelitsha in Cape Town to stay with my aunt and further my studies. But, I could not immediately go to university because my Grade 12 results were not good enough to be admitted.
So, I went to St Francis Adult Education Centre in Kwa-Langa, also in Cape Town to re-do the subjects that I did not pass well. By then, I had already done my research and I knew that I wanted to become an environmentalist. After that, I applied and got accepted for an Environmental Management diploma at CPUT, which I began in 2013.
This was followed by a Bachelor of Technology in the same learning pathway in 2016.
In 2018 I started my Master of Technology degree in Environmental Management at CPUT, which I am hoping to complete at the beginning of 2020.
Your research sounds very interesting – tell us more about it.
My research aims to find out about the methods used to harvest bitter aloe in Port Elizabeth, and the regulations in place to conserve the species.
This type of plant is one of those that are often ignored because of the assumptions that it is abundantly available.
In South Africa, the harvesting and supply of Bitter aloe to international markets began in the 1700s, but started to increase in the 1980s. It is popular for its medicinal properties. For instance, the hard black sticky product known as Cape Aloe is made from this plant, and is known to be effective when used as a laxative and to reduce arthritis in some cases.
Aloe tapping practices are escalating in the Eastern Cape. Consequently, the population is declining in the region.
With my research, I hope to discover sustainable ways of harvesting it.
Why did you choose to follow your career path?
As someone who grew up herding cattle with my friends, we used to spend a lot of time in the veld, especially during school holidays. I remember how we used to play while keeping our eyes on the cattle. We swam in the river, climbed trees, and picked fruit and mealies for food, which we prepared and ate in the veld.
Every time I think about my childhood, I realise how lucky I was to have had such an experience, and how valuable nature is in our lives.
That is why I decided to follow a career that will help contribute towards keeping the natural environment in a good state.
My undergraduate diploma sparked my curiosity in learning more about nature, which is also one of the reasons I continued in the same field. I also realised that without acquiring more knowledge it is impossible to make a noticeable contribution towards conservation.
How has the PBS contributed to your professional development?
The PBS scholarship contributed towards my tuition and covered my travel expenses to the research site. Through my studies I will be able to play a role in the conservation of Bitter aloe in South Africa.
What do you consider to be your greatest career-related achievement?
My greatest achievement so far is the experience that I gained while I was doing my in-service training at the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (previously known as the Department of Environmental Affairs). I was part of a team that was responsible for issuing permits for the harvesting of natural resources in the Eastern Cape.
This taught me a lot about the processes behind the issuance of permits, and about communities who require these permits to access what they depend on for survival – both land and water resources. It made me realise how vital it is to promote sustainable use, because some communities rely entirely on these resources to make a living.
What role do you think your generation can play in creating a better world?
We need to use what we have to gain knowledge and contribute to making the world a better place. We should connect with and spend more time in nature, through hikes and walks at the beach. This way we can grow our appreciation, learn and educate others to respect the natural environment.