Dominic Naidoo’s diverse activities, particularly as the chair of the Lilitha Environmental and Development Foundation, underscore a commitment to sustainable agriculture and environmental education. As a journalist, Dominic champions environmentally sustainable practices, emphasising the intersection of agriculture and climate change. His articles raise awareness about climate-smart food production and sustainable agricultural practices. As the chair at Lilitha, Dominic has led transformative initiatives, including developing and organising climate literacy workshops for primary and secondary school learners. These workshops help to nurture a generation with an understanding of sustainable development, climate change, sustainable agriculture and waste management.
Circular economy projects and community engagement in sustainable agriculture bolster community resilience, a critical aspect for South Africa in coping with the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related events. By reducing waste and reusing organic matter, people are better prepared for climate-related disruptions. The foundation has also facilitated “placemaking” initiatives in the Glenwood, Umbilo and Bulwer communities in Durban, which aim to transform them into sustainable neighbourhoods. The urban food garden in Glenwood sells its produce to nearby restaurants and cafes. Beyond his leadership roles, Dominic’s involvement as a youth delegate at the United Nations 16th Climate Change Conference highlights his global perspective on the problems faced by agriculture in the era of climate change. His advocacy transcends borders, emphasising the interconnectedness of sustainable agricultural practices in the context of a rapidly changing climate. Dominic also serves on various committees including the South African Youth Biodiversity Network, Young Urbanists South Africa and the KwaZulu-Natal Gay and Lesbian Tourism Association.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
The Lilitha Environment and Development Foundation’s (LEDF’s) paramount achievement is the effective integration of sustainable agriculture into climate literacy and placemaking workshops held at schools and community centres in Durban.
Please provide specific examples of how your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
We have shared our collective knowledge on the significance and importance of urban food gardens, teaching practical skills, organic farming, composting and water conservation. The workshops are targeted to primary school children, young adults, community organisations and members of local Urban Improvement Precincts.
Our approach to integrating sustainable agriculture into climate literacy and workshops goes beyond education; it serves as a tool for both mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Urban food gardens have a role to play in carbon sequestration, mitigating climate change by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing urban heat domes, shortening supply chains for fresh food and increasing urban biodiversity.
Our workshops emphasise the importance of water conservation in agriculture. Students learn the importance of efficient irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and soil moisture management.
Community gardens serve as adaptive measures by promoting localised food production.
Sustainable agriculture practices in community gardens promote biodiversity. Diverse plant species enhance ecosystem resilience in the face of climate-induced changes such as shifts in temperature and rainfall.
By actively involving communities in sustainable agriculture practices, we contribute to South Africa’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, aligning with international climate goals. A collective “little” goes a long way.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
The greatest challenge that we face as a country is the lack of real commitment to address climate change. South Africa has some of the most ground-breaking and progressive legislation and policy on the environment, yet we still have environmental degradation at scale because policy is not implemented.
Certain regions, such as the Western Cape, face acute water shortages, heightened by prolonged droughts. The over-extraction of water resources, inefficient agricultural practices, and climate change contribute to this crisis.
Urban areas, including Johannesburg, contend with high levels of air pollution, primarily from industrial activities, vehicle emissions, and coal-fired power plants. This contributes to respiratory illnesses and environmental degradation.
Unsustainable agricultural practices, mining activities and deforestation contribute to significant land degradation with little attention and resources provided for rehabilitation of these sites. The consequences include soil erosion, loss of arable land, and diminished ecosystem services.
South Africa faces the effects of climate change, including altered rainfall patterns in an already water-scarce region, increased frequency of extreme weather events and rising temperatures. As the western regions of South Africa experience decreased rainfall, eastern regions Eastern Cape have been experiencing higher rainfall resulting in flooding events such as the April 2022 floods in KwaZulu-Natal.
Inadequate waste management systems result in pollution, with plastics being a major concern. The decomposition of millions of tonnes of organic waste in our landfills produces massive amounts of methane which is much more efficient at warming the planet than carbon dioxide.
Last, our terrible dependence on coal for energy raises significant environmental concerns both at home and globally. Coal is the dirtiest form of electricity generation, and we produce just over 80% of our power from it. Besides pushing South Africa up to number one spot for carbon emitters in Africa and 13th in the world, our power plants pollute the air and water for kilometres around them, placing people at risk.
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
Without committing to a green future would lead to a failure to address the exacerbating effects of climate change.The consequences span various elements, posing existential threats to both the environment and human well-being. Prolonged droughts, exacerbated by climate change, would compromise water security, affecting agriculture, industry, and households. Reduced water availability would amplify existing socio-economic disparities and exacerbate food insecurity. More frequent and intense floods and wildfires would pose significant threats to already stressed ecosystems. These events can result in loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and displacement of populations with vulnerable communities disproportionately affected, facing increased risks of homelessness and loss of livelihoods.
Escalating temperatures contribute to heatwaves, affecting human health, agriculture, and ecosystems. Vulnerable populations, especially in urban areas, may face heat-related illnesses, while agriculture could experience reduced yields due to heat stress on crops.
The loss of biodiversity, accelerated by climate change, disrupts ecosystems and weakens their resilience. This not only threatens species but also jeopardises the services ecosystems provide, such as pollination of crops and regulation of pests. The insect apocalypse is real. Insects are disappearing due to pesticide use, warming temperatures and loss of habitat. Without insects, our food systems could collapse due to crops not being pollinated.
Unchecked climate change magnifies existing socio-environmental challenges, disproportionately affecting marginalised communities.