R25m boost for water, biodiversity in EC

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Justin Smith, Business Development Unit Head: WWF-SA. Photo: Supplied

Nedbank has committed R25 million towards safeguarding critical water source areas, biodiversity hotspots and rural livelihoods with a strong focus on the Eastern Cape. The money will be spent in partnership with WWF South Africa which has a long working relationship with Nedbank.

“For the past eight years, Nedbank and WWF have partnered to support sustainable farming across South Africa. The next five-year phase of this work will now be scaled up to secure water source areas, strengthen sustainable local economies and improve rural livelihoods to see people living in harmony with nature,” the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement.

“South Africa is one of the 30 most water scarce countries across the globe, and recent severe droughts have demonstrated how critical sufficient clean water is to maintaining economic growth and development while ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens.”

John Hudson, National Head of Agriculture: Nedbank. Photo: supplied

A recent WWF and CSIR study had revealed that 22 critical water source areas deliver most of South Africa’s freshwater, with just 10% of our land area delivering a staggering 50% of our river flows.

“In order to protect SA’s water security, WWF-SA has been working with key institutions to define, understand and improve the safeguarding and functioning of these areas to strengthen our national water security,” the organisation said.

The Eastern Cape is significant as South Africa’s second largest province with an estimated population of 7 million people comprising some 1.8 million households. It is also home to some of South Africa’s most critical water source areas – delivering close to 20% of SA’s water – and key biodiversity hotspots (including the Grasslands biome) and in urgent need of developing sustained rural livelihoods and employment for the youth.

Justin Smith, WWF-SA’s Business Development Unit Head says that the organisation is focused on scaling-up numerous sector-specific interventions across multiple land use sectors.

“We want to mobilise collaborative efforts through community-public-private-partnerships (CPPPs) and coordinating the various components of our work within integrated landscape hubs, to work collectively at landscape level to balance competing demands and affect change. The landscape level is often the most appropriate level of action between national and local, allowing stakeholders to understand their own impacts and explore their shared risk and joint opportunities while being able to shape and influence the future they wish to see in their region.” ¹

To achieve this, WWF – through the support of this Nedbank partnership – will partner with and support existing local NGOs, community based organisations (CBO’s), national and provincial/ local government and private sector partners to promote the concept of “Landscapes for Livelihoods.” ² The success of this approach has been demonstrated in the Eastern Cape’s innovative and highly successful Umzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme (UCPP), co-founded and led by the Matatiele-based Environmental Rural Solutions (ERS) and Conservation South Africa (CSA).

Water source area in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Supplied

This unique collaboration of more than 40 partners uses a model applicable to all of South Africa’s 22 critical water source areas and key catchments. It will continue to receive support through the Nedbank partnership. Another key area of work will be to encourage agricultural and water stewardship best practice in the dairy, fruit and forestry sectors, particularly in the Kouga and Tsitsikamma regions.

“WWF-SA strives to seek out creative partnerships of this nature to address the challenges the country’s water source areas are facing. In order to drive change at scale, multi-stakeholder collaborations are essential,” the oprganisation said.  “By taking collective action to safeguard one of South Africa’s key water security and biodiversity hotspot regions, WWF-SA and Nedbank are ensuring that the ecological integrity of these vital catchments are maintained and restored. This will ensure that they continue to provide water, food, livelihoods, generate jobs and develop local SMMEs, and build climate resilience for local and downstream communities who rely on them.”

John Hudson, National Head of Agriculture for Nedbank, said, “Strategically, Nedbank aims not only to be good with money but more importantly to do good with it as well. We are therefore proud to use our core business to drive the sustainability of the agricultural sector, while protecting our country’s water, food and job security and ensuring economic growth for all.”

Brigitte Burnett, Executive Head of Sustainability: Nedbank. Photo: Supplied

“WWF and Nedbank have been working together in various forms for almost 30 years – an incredible example of a long-term NGO/business partnership that continues to evolve and innovate in finding solutions to complex sustainability challenges in South Africa. We commend Nedbank for their investment in a critical environmental and development node for South Africa, and are excited to work with them to help achieve their ambitions under the UN Sustainable Development Goals,“ said Smith.

“We are proud to partner with the WWF on this new partnership,” said Brigitte Burnett, Executive Head of Sustainability for Nedbank. “In addition to the extensive environmental and community benefits that this partnership will realise, we believe that it will open up new opportunities for us to use our financial expertise to help our clients succeed in this everchanging and increasingly resource-constrained world.”

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