In light of debilitating water shortages throughout South Africa, the Coca-Cola Foundation has pledged to help alleviate this constant issue experienced throughout the country, which has been exacerbated thanks to climate change.
The foundation has invested $1.28 million (approximately R18 million) to help replenish water back into nature. It has done this through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) and has invested in five projects to remove invasive alien plant species that feed on major cities and towns.
Five main water catchment areas will be targeted.
Alien plants consume millions of litres of water each year, resulting in water shortages and more pressure on an already overloaded water system.
Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy spoke at the launch.
“Government simply cannot do it alone, and we need active private sector, community and citizen involvement,” she said.
Creecy outlined a five-year plan to improve stream and river-related ecological infrastructure and to restore, rehabilitate, and maintain natural vegetation buffers along streams and rivers.
“Secondly, we must improve wetland and estuary-related ecological infrastructure through restoration. Thirdly, we must ensure that our programme to expand protected areas includes the formal protection of key catchment areas,” she explained.
Coca-Cola South Africa general manager Luis Avellar added that besides reducing water usage in plants, the company would be providing cost-effective solutions to manage the country’s water security issues.
“These investments in ‘ecological infrastructure’ are designed to address issues of water security upstream in watersheds, in cost-effective and locally appropriate ways, rather than prohibitively expensive solutions downstream, such as groundwater extraction or desalination,” Avellar said.
In addition to alleviating water infrastructure issues, the projects will support economic empowerment and develop skills in rural areas.
The project aims to clear over 750 hectares of invasive alien plants and will provide employment for 130 people while focusing on training, mentorship and job opportunities for women and the youth.
The five projects will tackle the following areas:
The Nature Conservancy: Expanding the alien invasive plant removal the Greater Cape Town Water Fund to the Wemmershoek Dam, which serves the Greater Cape Town area.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa: Catchment restoration in the upper Umzimvubu, Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, serving East London.
WWF South Africa: Wetland rehabilitation with the Wolseley Water Users Association in the Western Cape, serving the Greater Cape Town area.
Living Lands: Invasive alien plant removal accompanied by landscape restoration in the Diep River of the Langkloof, as part of the Algoa Water Fund for Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.
Endangered Wildlife Trust: Water Conservation in Limpopo’s Soutpansberg Mountains, which serves Polokwane, Mokopane, Mookgopong, Modimolle, Louis Trichardt, Musina, and Lephalale.
Coca-Cola also provided seed funding for the Nature Conservancy’s Greater Cape Town water fund on the Atlantis Aquifer, which currently employs more than 50 woman and young people, and is set to conclude at the end of the year.
“The most effective work happens when there is collaboration across the public and private spheres for the benefit of the local communities,” Avellar enthused. – Nica Schreuder/The Citizen