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Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) within South Africa’s uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership

“The story for us started in 2015 when there was a national drought that crippled everything”, says Nomzamo Kheswa. She is the head of the Siyazisiza Trust, an organization established in 1987 to support small-scale farmers in improving their livelihoods, food security and the environment. South Africa is already severely impacted by droughts. In the coming years, they are projected to become even more frequent due to climate change. Small-scale farmers like Phumzile Ntuli are suffering from prolonged droughts as their crops and fruits are not growing. Butternuts, which she and other members of the Qalekhaya Cooperative are usually harvesting around October and selling at markets until January, simply did not survive the excessive heat this year.

A short story on the introduction of LocalG.A.P. by Siyazisiza Trust to small-scale farmers in the uMhlathuze river catchment as an approach to promote better water management.
Copyright: Syazisiza Trust

Under the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership, Local Good Agricultural Practices (LocalG.A.P.) trainings were conducted to eight members of the Syazisiza Trust, certifying them as GlobalG.A.P. Farm Assurers. With the knowledge gained, they were able to train 50 local small-scale farmers from the uMhlathuze Catchment in LocalG.A.P. best practices.

The trainings enable farmers to improve their water management and to achieve better harvests, while also strengthening their economic position, as the certification opens up markets for them.

Press release: Water Stewardship Event highlights the journey to economic recovery and a green economy post-Covid

25 November 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions in South Africa and around the world. The economic effects of the pandemic cannot be overstated. While South Africa’s economic growth is expected to rebound to 4% in 2021, this is on the back of a 7% contraction in 2020. This challenge presents an opportunity to build back better towards a green and sustainable future for all. The South African water sector offers huge potential for enabling economic recovery, combined with a quick turnaround, to ensure a greener economy post COVID-19.

How this recovery can be achieved was the focus of the 7th Annual Water Stewardship Conference, which took place in two morning sessions on 23 and 24 November 2021. The event brought together representatives from government, industry, civil society and development partners to explore how investments in South Africa’s water sector can be leveraged to generate sustained economic growth, employment and long-term wellbeing.

Jointly hosted by the National Business Initiative (NBI), the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), the Royal Danish Embassy and supported by GIZ’s Natural Resources Stewardship Programme (NatuReS) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the event builds on the momentum of last year’s consultations, which focused on Good Governance for Green Recovery: Stewardship in a Post-COVID Water Sector.

This year’s topic of “Water Stewardship in Action: A Journey to Economic Recovery”, unpacked what needs to be done to create robust governance for sustainable economic recovery and the national levers for anchoring water stewardship action to ensure initiatives and water investments support a post-COVID 19 green recovery.

The first day of the event sought to inspire further action and collaboration on the journey to economic recovery. The focus was on the economic regulation of water, ongoing structural reforms for enhanced management of the water sector and the economics of ecosystems. The second day highlighted the global discourse on stewardship and the numerous water stewardship initiatives taking place from local to national scale across the country. It also profiled the distinct work occurring at each level.

water stewardship
Representation of topics from Day 1

Why is a Green Economic Recovery Important?

The South African water sector struggles with financial challenges and capacity restrictions, constraining its ability to bridge the service delivery gap, a situation exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges are further aggravated by a lack of accountability linked to the governance, management, and oversight of the sector itself.

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan indicates that only 65 percent of South Africans have access to safe and reliable water services, while 14.1 million people lack access to decent sanitation. Yet, the Master Plan also contains the solutions to address these issues, stating: “A turn-around towards financial sustainability is not optional.” The Master Plans also calls for enhanced revenue streams combined with cost reduction and explores different funding models and innovative technologies. Importantly, it also gives the private sector an opportunity to invest in water and wastewater projects.

With water as a key enabler of economic growth, there is an opportunity to leverage green and sustainable investments in the sector to support South Africa’s efforts to build back better. Further, partnerships between government, the private sector, academia as well as national and international financing institutions and facilities provides the institutional and financial strength to get it done.

Honourable Dikeledi Magadzi, Deputy Minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), who spoke at the virtual event says: “COVID-19 has not only deeply affected the physical health of our country. It has exposed the big challenges we as a nation are still facing. Inequality, economic vulnerability, the lack of access to services and the lack of accountability. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the water sector to embrace the power of partnerships between private, public and civil society to collaboratively work together to close the water gap through taking a water stewardship approach.”

water stewardship
Representation of topics discussed on Day 2

What does A Journey to Economic Recovery look like?

The COVID-19 pandemic has required collaborative action between Government, businesses and communities to identify critical blockages and ensure sustainable economic recovery that advances the green economy. A key aspect of the green economy is that it achieves water security. Opportunities for sustainable investing in South Africa’s infrastructure are abundant, including in the water, agriculture and energy sectors. Leveraging green finance may be the best way to tap into more resources from domestic and foreign institutional investors now that sustainable investment is a growing necessity.

Robust governance is a crucial enabler if green economic recovery is to be achieved in the South Africa’s water sector. Well governed institutions improve performance and bring about much-needed stability and recovery. In the public sector, the need for greater transparency in decision making, improved financial management and technical capacity at both national and municipal levels is needed. In the private sector, the focus on corporate accountability needs to remain high on the sustainability agenda with more stringent criteria required for corporate leadership on water security.

Through the promotion of community led good governance practice, communities can be equipped and informed on how to both engage with government and private sector stakeholders, as well as hold them to account for specific actions linked to water conservation and demand management. Examples of such action include participatory budgeting processes, greater transparency, deepening understanding of procurement systems and participation in project planning and design. This would ensure strategic links between economic development and natural resource protection and encourage greater ownership of initiatives.

Drone Technology to Improve Municipal Finance and Resource Planning in uMhlathuze, South Africa

What are the reasons if cities experience a big discrepancy between their calculated water demand and actual water consumption? Non-revenue water through leakages? Illegal water connections? A mistake in the calculations?​

In 2019, the City of uMhlathuze experienced exactly this problem. A gap analysis commissioned by NatuReS confirmed the urgent need for the municipality to act on the improvement of water supply to traditionally managed areas, while decrease the unbilled consumption. To meet this objective, two pilot studies were undertaken, using drone technology to measure population increase, calculate average per capita water consumption, understand the extent of water losses and improve planning. All this aimed at increasing water supply.​

children around a drone
Children of the community of Gobandluvo are educated about the purpose of a drone for improved water security.
Copyright: Dawid Dierks

Increase water supply by gathering data from drone images

The village of Gobandluvo and Vulindlela were chosen as pilot areas to determine the population and subsequent water demand, using Remote Pilot Aircraft System (RPAS) technology, also known as drone technology.

Aerial photos of Gobandluvo were compiled from autonomous drone flight information, indicating the most recent developments. The aerial photos were geo-referenced over the existing zonal areas, as well as over the two project focus areas. From these photos, the represented structures were counted and divided into the following categories: households, rental rooms, student housing and schools. This information was then used to calculate the theoretical water demand and compared to the actual water demand in the area.

Findings guide targeted interventions

The findings of the investigation highlighted that the population had increased dramatically from the most recent census in 2011, which consequently influenced the water demand calculations. The area of Gobandlovu, marked as “High Water Loss Area”, requiring a high priority for water conservation intervention, was found to be close to expected water consumption per capita standards. However, the population of Gobandlovu was three times higher than the 2011 census. The municipality had assumed that the area had a high per-capita consumption, which it didn’t. Simply, the size of the population in the area had tripled and with it the water demand. An additional problem was the number of illegal and unbilled connections, which have a negative fiscal impact on the municipality.

With the obtained information gained from drone technology, the municipality can now decide on targeted actions to e.g. reduce illegal connections or upgrade the infrastructure to meet communities’ demand.

Aerial photos taken by drones can generate important information about illegal structures along rivers, invasive plant species etc.
Copyright: GIZ/Jesper Anhede

The way forward

As the pilot intervention represented a big success, NatuReS donated a drone to the municipality and is supporting three municipal officials in obtaining their drone licenses. This will help the municipality to carry out similar exercises in other areas, and additionally use the drone for more interventions like:

  • Leak detection – using infrared camera
  • Point leak detection – for high level reservoirs
  • River flow investigation – discover illegal structures
  • Surveillance over invasive plant species
  • Population count
  • Construction management progress reports
  • Spillage identification
  • Quantity survey

This will tremendously improve the service delivery and development planning for communities, as well as water demand management, budgetary planning and water loss reduction in the City of uMhalthuze.

The 7th South African Annual Water Stewardship Conference: Water Stewardship in Action – A journey to economic recovery

invite to water stewardship conference

On 23rd and 24th of November, the 7th Annual Water Stewardship Conference will bring together virtually representatives from government, industry, civil society and development partners to explore how investments in South Africa’s water sector can be leveraged to generate sustained economic growth, employment, and wellbeing.

Jointly hosted by the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), GIZ’s Natural Resources Stewardship Programme (NatuReS), the Royal Danish Embassy and the National Business Initiative (NBI) with the support of the Department for Water and Sanitation (DWS), the event builds on the momentum of last year’s consultations which focused on ‘Strengthening the Water Value Chain through Partnerships’.    

This year’s topic of “Water Stewardship in Action: A journey to economic recovery” will unpack what needs to be done to create robust governance for sustainable economic recovery and which water investments are needed to support a post-COVID green recovery.

The conference will be organised around two inter-related sessions where representatives from government, private sector and civil society will discuss these critical topics, offering not only different perspectives but also working towards joint solutions to address these pertinent challenges.

You can sign up for the event here.