‘Ecopreneur’ model creates jobs

Government award Winner:
eThekwini Municipality

Creating partnerships between local government and residents to implement greening projects has led to jobs and environmental restoration in Durban’s eThekwini Municipality.

The municipality kick-started a number of green initiatives to offset the impact of last year’s COP17 climate change conference hosted in Durban. One of these initiatives, the Community Ecosystem Based Adaptation (Ceba), includes an “ecopreneur” model that has created local employment.

“The ecopreneur model encourages local community members to take ownership of their earning potential by planting trees or collecting waste in exchange for essential goods. This eliminates the need to exchange money, and it means that ecopreneur activities are directly exchanged for items that are most needed in these very poor households,” said Debra Roberts, the municipality’s deputy head at its environmental planning and climate protection department.

Paid work has also been created within the project that involves clearing alien plant species, hole-digging for planting of indigenous trees and waste collection, has been funded through the Working for Ecosystems programme.

Roberts says forest restoration in the umbilo water catchment had helped to offset the municipality’s COP17 carbon footprint.

“Using the ecopreneur model, we are restoring critical natural infrastructure that provides a buffer against climate change impacts for all residents within the catchment,” said Roberts.

“We are addressing socio economic development needs too. It is our intention that our model becomes widely promoted and used in the rest of the developing world.”

A key impact of COP17 was water consumption by the thousands of delegates from all over the world. The municipality’s ecosystem restoration project in Paradise Valley in Durban focused on the replacement of water-consuming alien tree infestations with indigenous forests.

“This reduced water loss in the catchment and had biodiversity, climate change mitigation and social upliftment co-benefits. Ecosystem restoration also served to improve sediment retention, which would contribute towards the improvement of water quality,” said Roberts.

“By holistically tackling the problem of water supply, demand and environmental impacts, the municipality hopes to ensure a 99% confidence of supply level. The municipality’s water and sanitation department undertakes regular assessments.”

Recycling is a key component of the municipality’s water strategy, she said. Examples include industrial waste water recycling in the Southern Waste Water Works and a building designed to capture rain water, air-conditioner condensate and basement standing water for re-use as grey water.

The Greening judges said eThekwini Municipality had “consistently pushed the green agenda” and praised the Ceba “ecopreneur” model as a cutting-edge intervention. “COP17 was not a low-carbon event, but the offsets and particularly Ceba are world-class, long-term ecosystem adaptations,” they said.

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