Soul is more important than coal


This article appeared in the Food and Wine supplement of the Mercury on December 3 2014

By Rob Symons

On May 1 this year I was relaxing in bed taking advantage of the opportunity to sleep in when I received a call from a friend, Sheila Berry. “Rob, there’s a coal mine going in next to the iMfolozi Wilderness area and we need a website.”
I groggily murmured, “sure” , and so began a roller coaster ride along a steep learning curve. I suppose you will wonder what this topic is doing in a column called the “Farm Gate” in a Food and Wine magazine. At first glance not much, but as I think it through it has a lot to do with it. To be honest I have become immersed in the fight to save iMfolozi and my creative side has been exploring the topic of wilderness rather than Organic farming. I struggled to focus on this column but could only think of rhinos and mines. So please bear with me while I write of rhinos and mines, and soil and soul.

The iMfolozi Wilderness area is unique in that its chief protagonist, Dr Ian Player conceived of a vision of Wilderness as a special place to enable the healing of the human psyche. It was preserved with human interaction, not separation in mind. As I was called in to the defence of this wilderness I have slowly appreciated this value.

Of course iMfolozi is famous for its rhino. It has always been their home and was their last refuge when in 1895 iMfolozi became the first protected area in Africa. The White Rhino was then on the brink of extinction and it was only through the heroic efforts of Dr Ian Player and his team that they regained their numbers.

This beautiful Wilderness is now under serious threat from a coal mine. The mine will be right on the border of the wilderness area and will destroy its viability and essence. There will be an enormous increase in poaching pressure on the rhino within the park.

As organic farmers we live by the principles of organic farming, namely care, health, ecology and fairness. The mine fails on all those principles.

We have a duty of care in that we must care for the land for future generations.

We have a duty of health. A healthy soil, plants, humans and animals adds up to a healthy planet.

We have a duty of ecology in which we must emulate and sustain the natural systems.

We have a duty of fairness. We must support equity, respect and justice for all living things.

This is our alternate vision to that of the mine. The Wilderness, its animals and the human communities affected by the mine should have a future based on these principles.

If you are of a growing community of people that value ethical farming and ethical trading in our food system, a subject matter that I have often covered, then please help prevent this mine destroying what is good.

We have opposed this mine and are prepared to take the fight all the way to the Constitutional Court.

Our campaign has been fortunate to attract the attention of Grrrowd, an international funding platform that specialises in raising funds for legal expenses. If you wish to join our fight please go to and for further information please visit our site

Lets show them that soul is more important than coal.

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