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Scaling up entrepreneurial sustainable development projects in South Africa

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Two entrepreneurial initiatives contributing to sustainable development in South Africa have been helped to consolidate and scale up their activities with support from Defra under the UK-South Africa Sustainable Development Dialogue. The projects – Reclaiming Livelihoods and Food and Trees for Africa – were both amongst the winners of the 2011 SEED awards for social and environmental entrepreneurs.

Food and Trees for Africa

Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA), a social enterprise implementing sustainable natural resource management and food security programmes, has distributed over 3.6 million trees and facilitated the creation of over 2,500 organic food gardens for the poorest in South Africa. The sustainable development of land to create urban forest contributes to climate change mitigation and other environmental best practices.

Previously unemployed local residents are employed to help with planting trees and monitoring their health. As a result of the training received, many enter full time employment with other organisations. The setting up of permaculture food gardens equips community members with the knowledge to implement food gardens at schools and their homes, promoting self-sufficiency and allowing them to sell products to other communities and retailers in some instances.

FTFA has until now financed its programmes through private donations and financial support from public organisations, working in close cooperation with private companies to develop innovative projects to fund the supply and planting of trees, such as paperless billing, packaging reductions, recycling, and promoting green products. The initiative is aiming to generate carbon credits, so creating new opportunities to distribute thousands of trees.

Food and Trees for Africa: project participants (photo courtesy SEED)

Overall, the enterprise is now seeking to identify additional funds and funding strategies to help scale-up the operations to other African countries, through:

  • Certification for the tree and bamboo programmes as Verified Emission Reductions;
  • Producing a promotional video;
  • Improving social media reach;
  • Extending funding and investor networks.

Reclaiming livelihoods

Informal waste pickers in the town of Mooi River organised themselves into a formal group to work together under the Reclaiming livelihoods initiative, assisted by the NGO groundWork. With permission from the local Mpofana Municipality to recycle waste on the landfill site, the waste pickers collect recyclable materials such as cardboard, plastic, glass and paper. The materials are compressed and sold to larger recycling companies.

The initiative has contributed to poverty alleviation in an area of high unemployment, by providing job opportunities and income to local people. With formalised waste reclaiming, the landfill sites are now better managed through the constant presence of the workers. This leads to fewer toxic materials being deposited on site, fewer fires, less water pollution, and increased recycling rates.

Reclaiming livelihoods: loading up consolidated recyclables (photo courtesy SEED)

In 2011 the initiative is scaling up through:

  • Improvement to the transportation system from the landfill to the recycling company;
  • Introduction of an IT system;
  • Procurement of urgently needed technical equipment (bailers, weight scales, a forklift, transportation and building material);
  • Creation of additional jobs for waste pickers in Mooi River.

Further reading

User comments

  1. stembeni chirume says:

    Thank you for this very useful and user friendly site. Its an eye opener for sustainable projects in the region. It has given me ideas on exchange programs that I can conduct with groups of women I work with so that they can see what their counterparts are doing to improve livelihoods using natural resources.

  2. Zalia Sakwiya says:

    l really think this website is fruitful. It is giving me ideas on what projects we can also implement in our country Zimbabwe to achieve sustainable development. Thank you.

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