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The Water Stewardship Initiative works with farmers to address water risks

Woolworths Holdings Breede Catchment Water Stewardship Programme

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Part of the International Water Stewardship Programme, the Breede Catchment Water Stewardship Programme is a multi-stakeholder partnership involving the private sector, the public sector and civil society in order to formulate and implement measures to improve water security for all parties.

The core of this initiative works with deciduous fruit farmers in the Ceres area who supply Woolworths and Marks & Spencer with their stone fruits. The nine farms rely on the Breede River for the majority of their water supply.

According to Makhegu Mabunda, sustainability specialist at Woolworths, the water risks identified in a Worldwide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA) study include physical risks associated with climate variability, extreme weather events, changing land uses, and regulatory changes that favour water allocation to industrial and urban use.

“The main objective of the Water Stewardship Initiative is to work with farmers to address water risks and build resilience at the farm and catchment level,” she says.

In order to mitigate these risks Woolworths and Marks & Spencer have entered a partnership together with civil society organisations WWF-SA, the AWS (Alliance for Water Stewardship) and governmental institutions including the Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Agency, members of the Witzenberg municipality, CapeNature and local farmers.

Over a period of a year various measures are been implemented: mapping of invasive species, improved wastewater management, on-farm education for water saving, cultivation methods, uptake and use of the AWS online tool. There is also ongoing dissemination of the lessons learned.

“The project has provided valuable insight to Woolworths and project partners about the value and the challenges of water stewardship approaches,” says Mabunda. “This was the overall objective, and ultimately there will be a more refined approach to be scaled up into other parts of the country, taking into account a more diverse group of stakeholders.”

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