Category: <span>Climate Change</span>

13 July 2021 Media Release: Development of a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy

Media Release: Development of a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy

For Immediate Release
13 July 2021

Announcement and invitation to participate: Development of a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy in RSA 

A new initiative to develop a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy was initiated in June. The purpose of the initiative is to identify and unlock the opportunities of an invasive and alien biomass economy in South Africa that targets problematic alien and invasive woody biomass through ecosystem rehabilitation.

The clearing of alien and invasive woody biomass provides opportunities for developing green value chains that will support the restoration of ecosystems for climate change adaptation and mitigation, catalyse private sector financing and provide energy alternatives, amongst other uses. The initiative will support the uptake of an economy around the biomass use with the aim to support the creation of jobs.

“Every day, thousands of South Africans set out to the countryside, town and city perimeters to harvest significant amounts of invasive alien plant biomass in order to transform it into something useful which can be marketed and sold on any scale and format, or to simply utilise as firewood at their households,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“But exactly how big is the industry dependent on invasive alien, as well as invasive but indigenous bush encroachment biomass in South Africa? How deep and valuable is the market for products derived from these plants and trees? How do we go about giving the alien and invasive biomass industry a voice and assist it in growing in order to be more sustainable and to make an even more meaningful contribution to the fast-emerging green, circular and climate-ready economy.”

“To get a better understanding of these questions, SCLI, with support from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and its partners, is embarking on a process aimed at developing a strategic framework for the purpose of advancing the biomass industry in South Africa. The ultimate aim is to come up with a strategic framework and action plan, and a roadmap to the establishment of a National Biomass Industry Platform in the country,” says Meiring.

SCLI invites all who work directly and indirectly with invasive alien plant/tree material to support the initiative and join the series of national dialogues on the biomass economy.

Stakeholders in the biomass economy value-chain include entities or individuals involved in related research, the biomass-to-energy industry, timber manufacturers for the building and woodwork industries, companies manufacturing wood chips and shavings for example, for the poultry industry, manufacturers of sawdust, and companies producing charcoal from wattle and other types of invasive infestations. Businesses in the biochar, industrial-scale composting, harvesting equipment and transport services sectors are all encouraged to join in and provide critical input within the next few months, seeing that the baseline study will be concluded in October 2021.

Other stakeholders include South Africa’s national, regional and local authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), water boards, water catchment agencies, mining companies, agricultural bodies and the forestry industry.

“Groups and individuals are encouraged to list their interests and concerns, make suggestions and make their voices heard,” says Meiring.

As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, the standard public participation processes, including extensive face-to-face interaction and meetings countrywide used to develop a strategic framework such as the biomass industry is just not feasible and for this purpose, a series of virtual dialogues is planned for those interested. The virtual dialogues will take place between August and September.

The final topics/themes for virtual participation by interested and affected parties will be announced in due course and will be made available to all relevant stakeholders who are registered on the biomass economy strategic framework database.

To register as a stakeholder/participant, interested or affected party, please send an email with your full contact details to Louise Mare, email: louisamare@gmail.com or contact her by sending a WhatsApp message to 082 078 1629 during office hours.

For more information, please follow the link: https://www.scli.org.za/announcement-and-invitation-to-participate/

Photo/s:

High-volume manufacturers, industrial-scale companies, and small-scale businesses in the invasive alien plant biomass value chain are invited to contact the biomass economy study group through SCLI to register on the database for further engagement. Stakeholders can include invasive alien plant contractors, entrepreneurs creating products by making use of invasive alien biomass as base material, and landowners making available biomass for biomass harvesting on their land, be that indigenous or to reduce bush encroachment. (Photo: SCLI) 

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring, Chairperson, Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) 

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

25 January 2021 Media Release: Climate Change likely to blindside RSA on the back of Covid-19

Media Release: Climate Change likely to blindside RSA on the back of Covid-19

For immediate release
25 January 2021

“Disaster management is the name of the game going forward in a rapidly changing world. In as much as COVID-19 is a wake-up call to the South African Government’s ability to deal with the pandemic, affecting everyday life in complicated layers, climate change will have a much deeper-cutting and lasting effect. Climate change will most likely blindside countries such as South Africa if we fail to heed the warning signs that are already there for all to see,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

“Regional natural disasters, such as persistent drought and tropical storms in neighbouring countries, have brought the implications of climate change to South Africa’s doorstep.”

“More focused public awareness efforts, education and re-directing public finances, coupled with better planning and more advanced abilities to proactively deal with natural disasters, –including the way we nurture and protect our environment – are vital for those living in South Africa.”

“Policy failure, or the failure to implement sound existing policies due to a lack of political will or the competence to do so, rather than an absolute lack of resources, will have consequences that will haunt South Africa in generations to come. Most likely the consequences will include reduced quality of life for most, increased levels of poverty and social unrest, and the inability to bounce back from climate-change-induced natural disasters imposed upon us by wildfires, floods and droughts,” says Meiring.

“In recent times, the northern parts of Mozambique, including the city of Beira, were completely obliterated by tropical Cyclone Idai. The very same region is now again suffering the devastating effects of Cyclone Eloise, without having recovered from the devastation of Cyclone Idai some three years ago.”

“In addition to the effects of a changing climate on northern Mozambique, the very same region is becoming inhospitable through extremely violent political instability, displacing some 500 000 people, who have no choice but to migrate elsewhere fast if they are to physically survive another year.”

“RSA, despite experiencing a sharp and constant decline in governmental management capacity and the resultant general socio-economic decay, coupled with the devastation of COVID-19 that will set back potential economic revival by decades, South Africa remains the ultimate safe haven for displaced, destitute and desperate refugees from many Sub-Saharan countries, most notably from neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique.”

“Already grappling with service delivery and skyrocketing unemployment, South Africa can ill afford to accommodate millions of people who have no choice but to leave their country of origin because of the realities brought about by climate change.”

“Dealing with COVID-19 no doubt draws away attention and resources in government’s response and ability to focus on dealing with climate change. However, we simply have to wake up to the bigger challenge posed by a changing climate that is already on our doorstep and shouting to be heard,” warns Meiring.

“Environmental management in the context of climate change, and the management of precious natural resources, such as water and agricultural capacity to adapt and feed a fast-growing nation, must take centre stage if South Africa is to survive intact. Planning and sensible political leadership, based on sound policy, is what is required.”

Based in George, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a public platform for climate change and adaptation. The forum is supported by the Disaster Management Centre of the Garden Route District Municipality.

Feature Photo: Informal settlement, Garden Route

“Regional natural disasters, such as persistent drought and tropical storms in neighbouring countries, have brought the implications of climate change to South Africa’s doorstep, and fast-growing populations in new and expanding informal settlements are testimony to that, posing a much bigger political and socio-economic challenge than COVID-19,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).  (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) Secretariat

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

26 October 2020 Media Release: California steaming whilst Knysna and Bitou are reloading for wildfire round number two

Media Release: California steaming whilst Knysna and Bitou are reloading for wildfire round number two

For Immediate Release
26 October 2020

“With world news headlines dominated by COVID-19 and lockdown-related matters, coinciding with heated American politics and current affairs, the largest wildfire disaster in recorded American history keeps raging on in California and Western America, and so despite of its severe impact, it hardly makes the headlines,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

According to the latest media reports, critical fire weather remains in effect across much of Northern California, with firefighters on high alert for the possibility of new fast-moving wildfires. Some media reports refer to the 2020 wildfire season as the first ‘gigafire’ in modern history.

Says Meiring, “In comparison to the wildfire disasters that affected the Southern and Western Cape over the past three years, the size and scale of the Western American wildfire theatre is simply staggering. To date, well over two million hectares have been reduced to ashes, and well over 9 000 dwellings and structures destroyed, including untold damage to grid infrastructure, the natural environment and productive agricultural land, with no clear end in sight yet.”

“Just like in South Africa, climate change has set the perfect platform for intense wildfires across the American West over past decades.”

“A marked increase in American, and South African, day and night temperatures, changes in rainfall and snow patterns, shifts in plant communities, stronger winds and other climate-change-related factors all contribute to setting the scene for ever more severe wildfires over much larger areas than ever before.”

Knysna burnt landscape with flower

“The only reason Southern and Western Cape communities have not suffered from severe wildfire disasters in recent times is because much of the flammable invasive alien plant material, accredited for providing the fuel for intense and out-of-control wildfires, has been destroyed by recent fires and is only now maturing to sufficient mass.”

“In mitigation of environmental conditions conducive to out-of-control wildfires, the persistent drought experienced during the past decade has largely been broken by the return of favourable rains in most parts, and, as a result, flammable material is currently not as dry as it were during the harsh drought in many parts. The rapid suppression of wildfires also allowed biomass to grow and accumulate over time.”

“Monitoring the present-day aggressive regrowth patterns of invasive alien plants along known fire paths by SCLI in the Southern Cape, following the 2017 and 2018 wildfire disasters, puts justice to the term ‘Knysna reloaded’.”

“In as much SCLI and many landowners have gone to great lengths to draw up and implement Invasive Alien Plant Control Plans to eradicate and control invasive alien plants on private  land, unwanted biomass, potentially providing the fuel for a recurrence of the 2017 and 2018 Garden Route wildfire disasters, is clearly visible and growing rapidly on the landscape,” warns Meiring.

He says funding streams generated to assist landowners in dealing with invasive alien plants in the aftermath of the Knysna fires have since been diverted in order to serve COVID-19 relief efforts. Landowners now have to take full responsibility for controlling what grows on their land. They have little choice but to adhere to strict environmental management guidelines governing invasive plant control and eradication or face stringent penalties issued by environmental management authorities such as the Green Scorpions.

In an all-out effort to create more wild spaces and to enlarge the conservation footprint of the Southern Cape through the rehabilitation of regional river systems, SCLI and private landowners are collaborating to create conservation corridors linking the Outeniqua Mountains with the Indian Ocean. This collaboration is of particular importance in the rural-urban interface where most invasive alien plants are present and the most significant wildfire damage is recorded.

For more information on how to deal with invasive alien plants on their land, landowners can visit the SCLI website at http://www.scli.org.za.

“Many Knysna and Plettenberg Bay landowners are setting the scene for a repeat of the intense 2017 wildfire disaster by allowing the large-scale return of invasive alien plants on the landscape. All that is required for the next fire disaster is the right climate conditions, sufficient fuel loads and a spark,” says Cobus Meiring of SCLI.

** The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management, water stewardship and land management. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund (TMF), a subsidiary of WWF SA. SCLI also manages the Secretariat of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Chairperson of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI)

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

iStock.com/piyaset

13 July 2020 Media Release: Understanding drought, the frequency of it, vulnerability and how the Garden Route as a region can adapt to become more resilient

Media Release: Understanding drought, the frequency of it, vulnerability and how the Garden Route as a region can adapt to become more resilient

For Immediate Release
13 July 2020

Drought can be defined as a climatic event originating from a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more. This deficiency results in a water shortage within agricultural, urban and environmental settings. From 2009-2020, municipalities located within the Garden Route Municipality’s (GRDM) jurisdiction experienced drought episodes of varying degrees, ranging from moderate to severe and extreme meteorological droughts. Diminished rainfall during these drought episodes results in numerous lagged, “knock-on” consequences to ground and surface water resources, that translates into critically low urban water supplies in the Garden Route district. These hydrological drought conditions also generate additional effects and necessitated significant emergency responses over the last 11 year period in the Garden Route district.

The Western Cape has been identified as particularly vulnerable to climate change, because of its coastal location and the influence of rising sea temperatures on the weather patterns in the adjacent region. Prediction is that by 2050, the rainfall in the Western Cape is likely to decrease by 30% relative to current figures. The drought in the Garden Route district is consistent with long-term climate change projections for the area.

It is predicted by scientists that there will definitely be an average increase in temperatures within the district, having serious implications for soil moisture and the agricultural sector. A reduction in winter rainfall, with changes in the timing and intensity of the rainfall, is also predicted, thereby contributing to extended periods of drought with intermittent flooding events in between.

Climate variability and changing weather conditions are key risk drivers when it comes to drought vulnerability within the Garden Route district.

Consistent with prevailing studies on drought and water scarcity, the vulnerability within the Garden Route district is also amplified by interacting risk drivers that progressively escalated the risk of a wide-spread water shortage. These risk drivers include population growth and unprecedented urban development within the district, which results in greatly increased water consumption, both in agriculture and in the rapidly growing coastal towns. A lack of resilient and adaptive drought risk management planning within development zones further exacerbates the areas vulnerability to drought.

The focus of the GRDM to address the disastrous impacts of drought events within the district, has been to connect with climate change science and to facilitate the “climate-proofing” of water services within the district, so that the rights of all to reliable, safe, sufficient, affordable water is not compromised by the impacts of climate change, and that alternative strategies for providing water services do not in themselves contribute further to global warming. This however needs to be a collaborative focus by different stakeholders within the sector. Through adaptive responses and actions to drought impacts, municipalities have the power to provide resilient responses to ensure water security and sustainability for the district within the face of climatic unpredictability.

Responses such as rigorous water demand management, a systematic investment in water infrastructure and technical capacity is essential to manage the district’s water supplies sustainably. Alternative and new water resource options need to be investigated to ensure the integrity of the water system, such as the use of groundwater, the re-use of effluent and the desalination of seawater. Groundwater potential also exists in most of the district, and its conjunctive use with other supply sources and infrastructure should be investigated. Volumes can be obtained on a sustainable basis through more adaptive management actions such as resource directed measures where it is most needed. Desalination is also an important supply intervention, as decreasing costs could result in desalination being implemented prior to some of the conventional water resource schemes. Desalination can be an efficient method to cater for prolonged drought emergencies, a stronger trend in climate change and rapid growth scenarios. The clearing of invasive alien plants from riparian buffer zones is also a key mechanism for managing this risk, as it helps to restore base-flows that are otherwise used by invasive alien plants.

Due to the more erratic rainfall patterns experienced and forecasted due to climate change, a more holistic view is needed in the district, with a balance of different sources to cope with extremities.  The focus need to shift towards the careful management and optimisation of existing use. Planning and preparedness needs to take a more general flexible form. There is room for the local municipalities within the district to tackle specific issues their own way, allowing for more flexibility, with appropriate responses for the different local contexts. The Garden Route district would therefore like to encourage its local municipalities to ensure that their municipal disaster risk assessments incorporate considerations of their specific urban water scarcity levels and drought risks and their patterns in population growth and urban development, and to implement strong water conservation and demand management programmes, and more adaptive and resilient interventions.

By being resilient, it means that the municipality has the capacity to cope with future change and surprises, without changing in undesirable ways. Resilient interventions are defined by actions that support and regulate life support systems, as well as in providing the adaptive basis for coping with gradual and sudden change.  Through adopting a resilience perspective, we can produce new knowledge which is fundamental to manage the capacity of water systems to cope, adapt and shape change.

By adopting a more resilience approach to drought, vulnerability within the district can be minimized through a reduced exposure to stresses, as well as a reduction in social-ecological sensitivities through sustaining ecosystem services and human well-being in vulnerable areas. Through adopting this approach, a management approach focusing on proactive strategies – able to adapt to change, can be achieved, thereby averting or ameliorating the impacts of drought disasters within the district.

ENDS

Issued by the Disaster Management Unit, Garden Route District Municipality
Media queries: Herman Pieters, communications@gardenroute.gov.za

Garden Route DM hosts United Nations experts on Risk Management, Sustainability and Urban Resilience

The group of representatives from 20 institutions from Sub-Saharan Africa, some from as far as Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania and Kenya, are currently attending training at Garden Route District Municipality’s Head Office in George.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Technical Centre for Disaster Risk Management, Sustainability and Urban Resilience (DiMSUR) are piloting the participatory planning tool for building urban resilience, known as CityRAP, in three South African cities.  George was identified as one of the ideal cities to implement the pilot project (the other two cities are Port Alfred and Potchefstroom). George is also the host of the training workshop for all three cities and a number of international University partners, during which 45 participants are being trained for 5 days, ending 28 February 2020. After the training, each city will implement CityRAP, which will be a 3-4 month process.

 The main objectives of CityRAP are to develop local, national and sub-regional capacities for reducing vulnerability and building resilience of communities to natural and other hazards by making use of a participatory approach. According to Mr Gerhard Otto, Garden Route District Municipality Manager: Disaster Management, who is attending the training this week, he sees “CityRAP as an enabling tool, which puts us in the driver’s seat of urban resilience planning to ensure capacity retention and use”.

Over the past 5 years, CityRAP has already been conducted in 31 locations in 11 African countries.

Mathias Spaliviero [Senior Human Settlements Officer, Regional Office for Africa (ROAf), United Nations Human Settlements programme (UN-Habitat)] presenting the CityRAP Tool.
Through the successful implementation and training of this tool, city managers and municipal technicians will be able to roll-out participatory urban resilience planning. It comes at a time when the District Coordination Service Delivery Model (DCSDM) has become a talking point among Local Governments. The DCSDM is expected to narrow the distance between citizens and municipal/ district authorities, an approach complemented by CityRAP in terms of participatory governance, which will give rise to active participation by communities in development, and enable long-term planning as well as responses to immediate “burning” issues.

Stakeholders from the following organisations are in attendance

Garden Route District Municipality, Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management and Fire Rescue Services, Ndlambe Local Municipality, Stenden South Africa, JB Marks Local Municipality, City of Mutare (Zimbabwe), National Disaster Management Centre, North West Provincial Government, National Department of Human Settlements, City of George, University of Botswana, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique), University of Antananarivo (Madagascar), ARDHI University (Tanzania), Comoros University (Comoros), North-West University, Rhodes University and Stellenbosch University.

Editor’s note:

This workshop is being implemented in the context of the project, “Building Sustainable Urban Resilience in Southern Africa”, which was funded by the World Bank as part of the ACP-EU NDRR Program, with the support of the European Commission Directorate-General Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

Garden Route aims to find environmental solutions

In the run-up to its yearly environmental seminar for key stakeholders, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is looking to find lasting solutions for prevailing regional problems and a myriad new challenges in effective environmental management.

For decades authorities and private landowners have been dealing with the same problems, including non-sustainable land-use and land management best practice, increased fire risks and water security issues, a rapid decrease in natural habitat and biodiversity conservation, and compliance with environmental and agricultural legislation.

The Nels River, like many streams and rivers, is badly affected by invasive alien trees and deliver little or no surface water as a result. The state of rivers in the Garden Route interior is vital to rural communities and agricultural sustainability and requires a plan of action from authorities and private landowners to ensure their survival and optimal performance in the supply of freshwater from stressed catchments.

Over time, managing the Southern Cape environment has become exponentially more difficult, with many new challenges, including climate change, major changes in rainfall patterns, unprecedented wildfires, vast population growth and development, invasive alien plant growth and drought.

Finding new solutions and partnerships are vital

In many respects, national government departments are experiencing difficulties in operational respects, including managing their own assets and land, reduced resources, a low skills base, lack of effective communication, a sustained reactive approach or a complete lack of mandated management and compliance with environmental legislation.

In the Southern Cape, the Garden Route District Municipality and its public and private sector partners, though the Garden Route Environmental Forum, aim to play a leading role in taking on environmental challenges and development of partnerships in order to ensure and encourage a cohesive approach to find sustainable solutions.

What kind of solutions should the region be looking for?

According to Cobus Meiring of the GREF Secretariat, a fresh approach to planning around water security is always a good point of departure. Given the persistent drought in the interior regions, centred around towns like Van Wyksdorp, Calitzdorp, Ladismith and Oudtshoorn, the management of invasive alien plants, amongst other factors, is critical.

“As an example, rivers and catchments feeding the Kamanassie and Raubenheimer dams for Oudtshoorn, and the Nels River feeding Calitzdorp, are systems stressed by invasive alien plants and subsequent degradation. These systems require urgent intervention. However, there is still little information available on exactly what the extent of the problems are, and how to address them.”

Meiring continues to say: “National environmental programmes, in particular, the Working for Water Programme, has proven to be unsustainable in effectively dealing with invasive alien plants in catchments and rivers, and is in effect hampering efforts to assist regional landowners to manage invasive alien plants on their land. The model needs to be urgently revised and adapted given the circumstances.”

Planning for climate change

Climate change will have a definite impact on both the present and future generations living in the Garden Route. Exactly what that impact will be in practical terms, we have little understanding of as yet, but we have to explore what the scenario may look like, and plan in accordance,” Meiring says.

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) will be looking at what the agricultural production scenario will reflect in two decades from now, what are the vulnerabilities of our coastline given the slight rise in ocean levels, stronger storm surges and floods, fire risk to ever-expanding communities and the rural/ urban interface.

  • The Garden Route Environmental Forum’s seminar and key stakeholder event will take place in the George area on 11 December this year to reflect on regional environmental initiatives and planning ahead for 2020. Mandated by the Garden Route District Municipality, the GREF is the premier environmental platform in the Southern Cape.

** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.

WEBSITE: http://www.scli.org.za/gref

MEDIA ENQUIRIES
1. Cobus Meiring: Garden Route Environmental Forum Secretariat
Cell: 083 626 7619
Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

2. Dr Nina Viljoen: Manager, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM)
Tel: 044 803 1318; Cell: 067 035 9203
Email: nina@gardenroute.gov.za

3. Herman Pieters: Senior Communication Officer, Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM)
Tel: 044 803 1419
Email: communications@gardenroute.gov.za

Understanding climate change and associated risks to the Southern Cape with the risk of fire looming large in November

“November marks the month when a year ago over 100 000 hectares either side of the Outeniqua mountains burnt to tinder, with several lives lost and millions of rand of damage to infrastructure and grazing, resulting in significant loss of income to the region, as well as precious jobs lost,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“Prevailing drought in the northern and western parts of the region, combined with the 2017 Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Stilbaai/ Riversdale/ Vermaaklikheid wildfire disasters, the damage done to the local economy is an enormously difficult and frightening calculation to make. In as much as the fact that the Southern Cape is a popular destination for those choosing to retire, or for holidaymakers and adventurers, the region is in need of new businesses and a healthy agricultural sector,” says Meiring.

“All indications are that the Southern Cape should place a lot more focus on how we prepare our region for a changing climate, and the risks and opportunity it brings with it”.

The Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), including the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF), continues to explore climate change risks and developments and will be doing a lot more in this regard during the course of 2020 in order to gear up for a challenging and unpredictable environment.

According to Meiring, climate change and continuous fire risks impact in many ways, including a marked reduction in air quality, increased risks in terms of water quality and quantity, lower levels of national and international investment, slow but irreversible loss of biodiversity and a generally lower quality of life for those residing in the area.

“In as much as climate change is clearly irreversible, there is a huge responsibility on both the regional authorities and regional landowners to take ownership of what they can manage and find meaningful ways to work towards a higher quality environment to ensure a better and more sustainable future,” concludes Meiring.

 

Photo: Wildfire – burning plantation

Climate change-related disasters have a very significant impact on the Southern Cape economy and the region is in need of more business investment and healthy and prosperous agricultural and forestry industries. (Photo Credit: Pixaby)

** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.

** The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management, water stewardship and land management. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund (TMF), a subsidiary of WWF SA. SCLI also manages the Secretariat of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

WEBSITE: http://www.scli.org.za/gref

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Chairperson of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI)

Cell: 083 626 7619; Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

Garden Route District Municipality’s Nina Viljoen now “Dr Nina Viljoen”

Nina Viljoen, Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner at the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), was on 12 July 2019, conferred a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualification at the University of Cape Town’s Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences.

Talking passionately to the Communication and Graphic Design Unit of GRDM regarding the progress of her education over the years, she said: “I progressed from having a Grade 7 (previous standard 5) school qualification at the age of 19, to achieving my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), with specialisation in Water Resources Management”.

Her thesis is titled: “Participative water demand management as an adaptive response within complex socio-institutional systems: A City of Cape Town case study, South Africa’.  However, she admitted that it could not have been done without will power, commitment and true dedication.

Referring back to her Master of Science (MSc) Degree, she explained: “I also focused on water resources management, more specifically alternative water resources, with my dissertation entitled: “The feasibility of rainwater and stormwater harvesting within a winter rainfall climate context: A Commercial Building Focus,” for which I received a Cum Laude recognition”.

Touching on how she persevered with so much at hand, she said:  “At times I had to isolate myself from family issues and had to work over weekends and on public holidays on my thesis. I also participated in Garden Route Environmental Management related initiatives, and attended forums and workshops that took my mind off the strict routine of the PhD studies”, she added. At times when she felt despondent and felt like giving up, these initiatives helped her to get re-energised and motivated again.

Sharing briefly about her childhood years, she said she grew up in a single-parent household.  “I attended 14 primary schools as my family was mostly homeless and moved around a lot. Sadly, due to the psychological and physical impacts of these hardships we faced, I lost my only sibling to suicide”.

Dr Viljoen is adamant that education saved her life and has given her independence. She would like to be a role model to the youth as an example of the importance of education in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and hardship. With regard to her immediate future plans, she concluded:  “With my expertise and experience gained through my PhD studies, I will continue to help the Garden Route district with water resource planning and drought awareness initiatives”.

The Garden Route Annual Fire Commemoration Event, Climate Change & Adaptation Indaba successfully hosted in Wilderness

The Garden Route Annual Fire Commemoration Event, Climate Change & Adaptation Indaba hosted by Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) in collaboration with the South Cape Environmental Forum once again reminded roleplayers about the fire outbreaks of 2017 and 2018 in the Garden Route and the aftermaths and tragic losses as a result of the fires. The Indaba took place on 7 June 2019 at the Wilderness Hotel in Wilderness of which approximately 150 delegates attended.

Garden Route District Municipality was well represented at the event. FLTR are: Dr Nina Viljoen, Cllrs Rowen Spies, Erica Meyer, Thersia van Rensburg, Joslyn Johnson, Mayor Memory Booysen, Daniel Saayman, Mr Gerhard Otto and Deputy Mayor Rosina Ruiters.

Delegates represented organisations and institutions, such as the National Department of Environmental Affairs, the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Stellenbosch University and Nelson Mandela University, as well as GRDM and Knysna Municipality were in attendance.

Various role-players from Government Organisations, Training Institutions, Municipalities and members of the media attended the event. Front (fltr) GRDM Manager:  Disaster Management, Mr Gerhard Otto, Executive Mayor, Cllr Memory Booysen and Municipal Manager, Mr Monde Stratu.

The main purpose of the event, was not to only host the Annual Fire Commemoration event, but also to build on the momentum and team effort the region has created in their efforts to recover from the fire, but also to host a Climate Change Indaba, according to Municipal Manager of GRDM, Mr Monde Stratu. In his welcoming address to the attendants, Mr Stratu said: “It is our objective to shape a better prepared, climate- ready and resilient Garden Route environment for our community, and we trust that you will be able to assist us in achieving that ambitious goal”.

Dr Nina Viljoen, Manager: Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at GRDM during, her presentation at the event.
Dr Jo Barnes, Epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Community Health at the Stellenbosch University, spoke about the harsh realities of the impact of climate change on public health systems in the Garden Route.

In referring back to losses and the recovery of losses and damages as a result of the fires, Mr Cobus Meiring, Secretariat of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) said:  “Recent reports released by Santam and others indicate that the damages incurred by the 2017 Knysna wildfire disaster are very close to three billion rand. For the large insurance companies to arrive at accurate calculations took them a full two years to consolidate all pay-outs and peripheral and associated costs. Three billion rand is a staggering amount of money and is indicative of the kind of damage the fury of nature can incur on civilisation and the environment in a matter of hours. However, when taking into account what best could be described as collateral damage, could be a lot harder to calculate. Take for instance the number of retired folk from Knysna and Plettenberg Bay deciding not to rebuild at all, land becoming vacant for extended periods, formerly employed people now struggling to find new employment opportunities, with employers having decided to move on following the disaster, or even leaving the country as some reportedly did, and suddenly the situation looks even worse than expected,” Meiring said.  It is for these reasons that Dr Nina Viljoen, Manager: Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at GRDM described the event as crucial in the way the region is planning ahead with a challenging environment at play.

The event was facilitated by Mr Cobus Meiring, Secretariat of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

Most of the presentations made at the event, placed emphasis on water security, high quality water resources, the living conditions of the communities, sanitation facilities, regrowth of alien vegetation, to name a few. All these factors place a high risk on the state of health of the residents of the area and the economic growth of the Garden Route.   These were furthermore and significantly emphasised by Dr Jo Barnes, Epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Community Health at the Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, when she spoke about the harsh realities of the impact of climate change on public health systems.

GRDM Executive Mayor, Cllr Memory Booysen, could not ignore the after effects of the fires in his address, when he made an announcement:  “As we pride ourselves as a District Municipality striving to improve the way we manage our environment, the GRDM and our Environmental Forum has secured substantial funding and support from the Fund for the Rebuild of Knysna to assist landowners who were severely affected by the Knysna, and more recent fires, to deal with the scourge of invasive alien plant re-growth”.  In coming to a point where resolutions had to be taken and the way forward was discussed, Mr Gerhard Otto, GRDM Manager for Disaster Management said, “The establishment of the Garden Route Environmental Forum, mandated by the District Municipality and incorporating non-governmental conservation bodies and public platforms, was a first in the Western Cape, and allows for greater cooperation between private landowners and regional and national authorities.”

In conclusion, Otto added that floods and fire in the immediate and foreseeable future can be reduced, but only if those tasked with planning and management understand the issues at play and implement mitigation measures in accordance,” Otto added. “The announcement of a regional public/ private programme to assist landowners who were affected by recent fires and a scourge of invasive alien plant re-growth is a first of its kind in RSA, and further announcements will follow as the initiative reaches implementation stage,” he added.

GRDM is taking proactive steps to deal with climate change

“As the Garden Route commemorates the June 2017 wildfire disaster and prepares to host a Climate Change Indaba, climate change related disasters are on the increase in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr Nina Viljoen, Manager: Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and a spokesperson for the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

“With thousands affected and the regional population traumatised, the June 2017 Knysna wildfire disaster was perhaps one of the most dramatic and destructive events in living memory to hit Southern Africa in general, and the Garden Route in particular.”

“To compound matters, back in June 2017, the Southern Cape was suffering the consequences of a prolonged and severe drought, with areas in the Klein Karoo completely running out of water with economic activity shrinking and agricultural output dropping dramatically.”

“Much of what the environment was suffering can be ascribed to the effects of climate change, and local government is increasingly shifting its focus and efforts towards finding ways to cope with the effects of climate change, ” says Dr Viljoen.  

“However, with the flooding of KwaZulu-Natal and Beira in northern Mozambique, South Africa is not alone in suffering from climate change”, continues Dr Viljoen. Recently United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has been urging the international community to quickly fund emergency aid appeals for Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, saying they have suffered “one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa.”

Guterres said the devastation has affected three million people, nearly two-thirds of them in Mozambique, and “there are reports that $1 billion worth of infrastructure has been destroyed.” Many areas still have no electricity.

The UN chief called Cyclone Idai an “uncommonly fierce and prolonged storm — yet another alarm bell about the dangers of climate change, especially in vulnerable, at-risk countries.”

He said such events are becoming more frequent and devastating, “and this will only get worse if we do not act now.”

Concludes Dr Viljoen, “In a proactive step to deal with climate change, the Garden Route District Municipality is making good progress in the development of the regional Climate Change and Adaptation Strategy Document, and in due course, we will be making more information available”.

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) will be hosting the Annual Fire  Commemoration event and Climate Change Indaba on 7 June 2019. More information will be made available on the GREF website https://www.scli.org.za/GREF.

WEBSITE: https://www.scli.org.za/GREF/

** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Dr Nina Viljoen: Manager, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and a spokesperson for the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF)

Tel/Cell: +27 (0)44 803 1318 | +27 (0)67 035 9203

Email: nina@gardenroute.gov.za