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CAPE TOWN: The impacts of climate change are too region-specific to allow for generalised development projects to be run at pilot level and then ‘upscaled’ viably across a wider region.

Speaking at a water and climate change seminar hosted by the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) this week, EMG project manager Jessica Wilson said it was time to interrogate the idea that a project which works well in one place can be rolled out everywhere.

CAPE TOWN: An educated public is one that demands more of its politicians, is more discerning in who it votes for, and can push for service delivery that is sustainable in the long term, the Environmental Monitoring Group’s (EMG’s) water and climate change seminar heard this week.

This emerged after a community member from Makhaza, Khayelitsha, testified to how she had been empowered as an activist, simply by receiving education on the water cycle through various civil society-organised workshops. The result of this capacity building was a groundswell of activism within the community which has pushed the City of Cape Town to be more equitable in its water service delivery, community involvement in clearing up a nearby wetland, and food gardening.

CAPE TOWN: Water activists in rural and urban areas can learn from one another in spite of their geographic differences, since they face many similar challenges particularly when dealing with municipalities on water service delivery issues.

Reporting on the outcome on the Western Cape Water Caucus (WCWC) quarterly meeting, regional coordinator Thabo Lusithi said the August 15 gathering was an important opportunity for rural and urban water activists in the province to share knowledge and build stronger relationships ahead of the national South African Civil Society Water Caucus meeting scheduled for this September.

KHAYELITSHA, CAPE TOWN: The Makhaza Wetland and Food Growers – the newly minted name for a loose collective of activists who have been working in their Khayelitsha community in recent years – will spend much of next week conducting an ‘asset audit’ to see how they can build on their existing skills, physical assets and social networks. 

This is part of a community-led development approach, hosted by non-governmental organisation the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), which has been working with the community since 2010.

‘During the course, we will take a look at five areas where the community has different kinds of assets,’ explains EMG’s Thabang Ngcozela. ‘We’ll look at what level of education there is within the group, what their knowledge and skills are. We’ll do an audit of the natural resources in the area, such as the Makhaza wetland, and river, the land in their community and the park.’

Thirdly, the group will do an inventory of their social assets, for instance what kinds of service organisations, sports clubs or funeral groups might be active in the community. Next will be an assessment of the built environment – for instance what homes, halls, roads, and services are present in Makhaza.

‘Finally we’ll try to quantify their financial assets. Where do people get their money from, is it from government grants or from an employer or do they earn from their own business?’

Ngcozela, who also lives in the community, says an asset-based community development approach like this is an alternative model for development.

‘Instead of looking for the needs and the gaps within the community, and at the different problems, and then building programmes around how to solve those problems, we do an inventory of all the social, economic, knowledge and infrastructural assets within the community. Then we see how we can build on those assets.’

EMG will host the workshop process from Monday 26 August to Friday 30 August.

For more information, contact:

 Thabang Ngcozela

Tel: 021 448 2881

Cell: 078 803 4321

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WESTERN CAPE: The small fishing community of Buffeljagsbaai, near Hermanus on the Cape south coast, is about as obscure as the sea snail that the locals have been harvesting here for generations.

But for a group of entrepreneurial women here, the ‘alikreuk’ – the South African turban sea snail or the alikreukel (Turbo sarmaticus) – is more than just a chewy sea creature to skewer on the end of a fishing hook, which is how the government sees it. They want to make a living out of pickling it, or making alikreuk frikadels and soups. For them, it’s a local delicacy which they believe they can woo passing tourists and maybe even find an export Chinese market.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Organic rooibos tea farmers of the Heiveld Cooperative from Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape have a quandary. These emerging farmers produce a boutique product that’s ethically and environmentally sound. But to reach their international markets, they have to ship the tea great distances, which racks up ‘air miles’ and gives the product a big carbon footprint.

Ideally, they’d like to tap into a market here in South Africa, one that’s prepared to pay a premium for tea that’s been grown in a way that treads lightly on the environment, while also benefiting poor black farmers. Reaching this kind of local market would also help absorb some of their produce as international sales dip in the wake of the global recession.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Every story needs a hero. And when you’re working in non-fiction, it has to be a real hero. But for a group of Cape Town storytellers, they’re almost spoiled for choice amongst a group of dynamic water activists in a ‘township’ on the outskirts of the Mother City. Here’s how they muddled through this classic writer’s dilemma.

They call it the umfudo, the ‘tortoise’, because it hides inside its shell: the blue, flat-topped water management device, sunk into the ground outside many homes in low income communities in Cape Town. Every day, it measures out the family’s municipally-allocated 350 litres of free daily water.

PIKETBERG, SOUTH AFRICA: Vegetable gardeners in a mountainous nook in the Swartland, two hours’ drive north of Cape Town, are part of a groundbreaking study where scientists are trying to fine-tune global climate and water models into something useful for smallscale farmers. The results have been surprising for farmers and scientists alike.

Right from the start, the vegetable gardeners of the remote Goedverwacht mission village, in the mountains near Piketberg, said they had a good idea of what the greatest threats were to their survival as small farmers: the dense infestation of Port Jackson wattle, an alien invasive tree from Australia with a ravenous appetite for water, which grows prolifically on the banks of their only irrigation source, the Platkloof River. And the high irrigation needs of neighbouring commercial farmers.