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Community champions

Winner: Green Building Council of South Africa: Cato Manor Green Street Project
In the run-up to the Cop17 climate change talks in Durban in 2011, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) sought to demonstrate the range of socioeconomic, health and environmental benefits, which are possible from the implementation of resource-efficient interventions in low-income houses.

The council initiated the Cato Manor green street project in Durban, which is the first green street retrofit in South Africa.

Thirty low-cost houses in a small cul-de-sac road in this historic township benefited from a green upgrade through the installation of solar water heaters and LED street lights, insulation paint, insulated ceilings, heat insulation cookers, rainwater harvesting tanks and other green interventions.

A further 26 houses were retrofitted after Cop17. In addition to the improved quality of life for the residents, these households have saved up to 27% on their electricity costs.

Peak temperatures on summer days have also dropped by between four and eight degrees Celsius thanks to insulated ceilings and insulation roof paint.

Runner-up: Project 90×2030: Msobomvu Community Project
A small, rural “off-grid” community near East London in the Eastern Cape is reaping the benefit of an energy solution that has potential for long-term sustainability, thanks to its community partnership programme with independent non-profit organisation Project 90×2030.

The focus is on cooking and lighting needs in the Msobomvu community of 280 households, which is situated in a sea of darkness surrounded by electrified towns.

Solar home lighting kits installed in each household include three LED lights and a 12V plug for charging small appliances, and are easy to assemble, durable and safe.

A key component of the project is its capacity-building approach to working with communities. It is training community members to build and install the lighting kits, and two community representatives undertake ongoing maintenance of the systems, introducing a small business element.

The project installed the first 250 kits as partners, but the last 27 were managed entirely by the community, demonstrating the success of empowering communities with solutions that they can manage themselves.

Runner-up: Vuka-uzenzela
The Vuka-uzenzela project is committed to community upliftment through an energy efficient bakery.

Based at Sehlulile Primary School in Matsulu, Nelspruit, this project aims to supplement the income of the four women who prepare meals at the school while making use of an energy efficient clay oven that uses a free supply of sustainably harvested timber.

The 1.5m diameter clay oven is heated using a fire and after 90 minutes the coals are removed and the hot oven can be used for baking for many hours.

The oven was relatively cheap to build and is an energy efficient cooking method that uses sustainable and renewable resources, helping to reduce running costs and increasing the group’s profit margins and income.

The clay oven can accommodate 10 bread bins and, with four baking sessions of one hour each per day, this cooking method saves 380kWh and R228 a month when compared to using a conventional oven.

The project achieves 4 560kWh savings a year and prevents 4 468.8kg of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

This feature has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. Contents and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G's supplements editorial team. It forms part of the bigger supplement

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