Climate chaos turns fruitful

Participants learn cooking methods to reduce the amount of water and energy required. (Supplied)

Participants learn cooking methods to reduce the amount of water and energy required. (Supplied)

The consequences of climate change often have the highest impact on indigent communities, with events such as storms and flooding creating severe damage in poorly built homes and on infrastructure.

By adapting to the changing environment, poor people not only build resistance to climate chaos, but can turn it to their advantage.

The Built Environment Support Group’s three-year Greener Pastures project has been successful in doing exactly that, while simultaneously promoting environmental awareness and improved nutrition.

Based in KwaZulu Natal’s uMgungundlovu district, an area prone to severe storm damage, the project applied a people-centred approach by encouraging beneficiaries to come up with their own solutions and to share innovative ideas within the community. Participative learning ensured that people fully engaged with the project and refined it by adding ideas and insights.

“When there are storms houses and schools get flooded, there’s a lot of soil erosion and roads wash away,” says Greener Pastures facilitator Mfundo Mahlase.

“We worked with people to help them come up to their own solutions about how they can prevent damage. Things such as planting to reduce soil erosion, creating drainage systems to reduce storm water damage, as well as how to store the water and use it for agriculture.” 

The project made use of street theatre skits, which acted as an icebreaker and introduced concepts such as food security and global warming.

By targeting community-based organisations and schools, the project educated people about the causes and effects of climate change and encouraged environmentally sound practices such as recycling and water, and energy conservation and management.

Participants were taught about storm water control, recycling, nutrition and good cooking practices, as well as the importance of trees and food gardening.

Three years later the fruits of the project are apparent among rural communities in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.

People have changed their cooking methods to reduce the amount of water and energy required and are enjoying healthier, balanced diets as a result of thriving vegetable gardens.

Income is generated through the sale of excess crops. The fruit trees that were planted have been well cared for and are beginning to offer shade and act as windbreaks. Grey water is being used to water plants and storm water is being harvested.

In the areas where there is government-supplied electricity and water, participants are managing these effectively. People are also making clever use of waste products such as plastic and tin, and recycling these into useful objects that they use or sell.

“This is a lovely project. It is ending on June 30, but people have our numbers and we will continue to monitor the areas and see what they are doing beyond food gardens and selling their produce,” says Mahlase.