Sappi and the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA) are working together to improve water security in the uMkhomazi catchment area, in KwaZulu-Natal.
Under a two-year water stewardship agreement, the duo will engage local communities, civil organisations, leadership and regulatory authorities in dialogue and cooperation focused on water stewardship.
The multi-stakeholder engagement will provide a platform for open dialogue regarding water resources in the catchment and will concentrate on four main focus areas to improve water security in the uMkhomazi region.
These include improved water governance through multi-stakeholder engagement; water-use efficiency; removal of alien invasive plants and wetland rehabilitation; and capacity development of local communities in natural resource management.
“With its significant manufacturing and forestry footprint in this catchment area, which forms part of the Southern Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area in KwaZulu-Natal, it makes sense for Sappi to focus its collaborative efforts here, where its Saiccor Mill and 42 000 ha of its forestry land are situated,” the company said in a joint statement.
The catchment, which serves commercial farmers, subsistence farmers and domestic users in dispersed settlements across the area, is underdeveloped and faces extensive development challenges to meet the future needs of all users, and ensure sufficient water at an acceptable level of assurance and quality must be secured.
Sappi believes that this can only be achieved through multi-stakeholder collaboration.
This collaborative approach is an extension of an innovative structure, known as the Integrated Community Forum, which Sappi introduced and uses to engage with local adjacent communities.
“The growth in population and production leads to a greater demand for water. In South Africa, the availability of clean and safe water continues to decline owing to the effects of climate change, the pollution of our freshwater bodies and inadequate management of water supplies,” said Sappi sustainability dissolving pulp GM Krelyne Andrew.
“The partnership responds to the Climate+ strategy of the Textile Exchange and their call to action to collectively improve the water footprint of the global textile industry. This partnership aims to not only improve access to water for all, both at a catchment and landscape level, but also to positively impact the ecology and biodiversity in the area and ultimately to boost resilience to the impacts of the changing climate.”
With water use having grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century and with South Africa being a water-scarce country, WWF-SA focuses many of the projects in its portfolio on securing South Africa’s strategic water source areas, be they projects on fresh water, protected areas, agriculture or climate change.
“These are the areas of the landscape that deliver over 50% of South Africa’s freshwater to downstream economies, while only making up 10% of the country’s land cover. Therefore WWF-SA is working towards mobilising water stewardship partnerships throughout the country to bring together communities, corporations, government and nonprofit organisations to tackle the water challenges in these strategic water source areas,” WWF-SA said.