Built Environment Support Group

The Greener Pastures Project

Mitigating the impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Households

The Greener Pastures project was inspired by the Head of eThekwini Municipality’s Climate Protection Branch, Dr. Debra Roberts, who spoke at a workshop in 2008 about a pilot project the Municipality was undertaking with communities in the Valley of 1000 Hills. The aim of the project was to help them understand the cause of severe weather patterns and develop resilience against climate change-related shocks.

After a wait of 13 months, we secured funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) at the turn of the finance year. This enabled us to pilot our own response to the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities in the areas within uMgungundlovu District that are most prone to severe weather patterns and food insecurity – Msunduzi, Richmond, Impendle, and Mpofana. It uses street theatre as an “ice-breaker” to introduce the project to stakeholders and potential beneficiary groups, to convey some of the complex issues around global warming in largely rural communities, who have had little access to formal education.

The title of the project reflects the need for us to move away from a throw-away culture that devalues and depletes our natural resources in an unsustainable manner – where we live in hope that “the grass will be greener on the other side of the hill.” The aims of the project are to develop awareness of why we are facing natural disasters and why we need to develop strategies to mitigate their impact, and to develop the resilience of vulnerable households through training and demonstration projects.

Poor households focus on a hierarchy of immediate to short-term needs, food and reacting to acute and chronic illness being at the top of the list. Maintenance of housing and protecting the environment are very low priorities – and yet these are critical factors in supporting the long-term well-being of households and whole communities. In this context, Greener Pastures is an integral component of our core programme of building sustainable human settlements.

Climate change is already impacting on us, and affects poor communities disproportionately as they experience alternating cycles of extreme flooding and drought, resulting in the loss of crops, food insecurity, and food price inflation, the destruction of property, and spikes in waterborne and water-related diseases during flooding, and water insecurityduring periods of drought. While human behaviour is responsible for global warming, the poor have the least access to resources, the least means to change the way they use the resources available to them, and consequently are the most vulnerable when faced with natural disasters.

The project involves two sets of learning activities:

1.Participatory learning in --

  • Water conservation and management, rainwater harvesting, and grey water recycling.
  • The effective control of stormwater to prevent soil erosion and property damage.
  • Recycling of waste materials (e.g., plastic, shale and old tyres) to support household livelihood and food security and plot protection.
  • Food security, nutrition, and the value of harvesting and/or growing imifino (edible and palliative wild plants) as a food and health supplement.
  • Energy conservation and sustainable practice.

2.Demonstration projects in:

  • The promotion of tree planting as a source of shade and food, and the elimination of invasive aliens that may cause structural damage and/or unnecessary loss of water table.
  • The productive use of set-aside land for food gardening, through collective demonstration projects.

IMG 4707

Greener Pastures is a local response to a global issue. While the world’s attention was focused on the COP17 international convention on climate change, hosted in Durban in December, the project is targeted at the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable households in the KZN Midlands. We need to try, share, and grow in resilience – both municipalities as front line service providers and communities as affected citizens and residents. In its first of a three year programme, the project focused on Msunduzi. 250 participants from local schools and CBOs took part. The highlight of the year for the project – and indeed BESG – was the launch of the street theatre production on United Nations World Habitat Day, 3rd October 2011. We were hosted by His Worship the Mayor of uMgungundlovu District, Councillor Yusuf Bhamjee, in the District Council Chamber, and followed this with a performance at the Bessie Head library for members of the public.

 

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