Township green-economy initiative receives official recognition

21st June 2013 By: Megan van Wyngaardt - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

The Western Cape government has officially recognised initiatives in the Khayelitsha township that are contributing to its green-economy aspirations by presenting these enter- prises with signed flags.

The flags, which form part of the province’s yearly 110% Green initiative, feature the province’s emblem, the signature of Premier Helen Zille and the words “Commit. Act. Impact.”

The 110% Green initiative was launched on World Environment Day 2012 and calls on organisations to action-link green growth with the economy. “This is a call for 110% commitment – that is what is needed to make the paradigm shift to connect environmental preser- vation to economic growth.

“It is also a call for 10% impact – at the very least. The 110% Green initiative aims to be a catalyst in building a critical mass of activity that puts the Western Cape well on the road to becoming Africa’s green economic hub – a key economic goal of the Western Cape government.

“We aim to provide a platform that stimulates people and organisations to build an innovative and dynamic green economy and we hope that more companies will invest in ways that support green growth. As a government, we commit to help making this process easier for organisations,” Zille said during her speech at the launch last year.

Flagship Initiatives
The flags acknowledge 20 organisations, including municipal, nongovernmental or business enterprises, which made “more than the usual commitment” towards the green economy.

To form part of the 110% Green stall, interested organisations submit their proposed projects. Following evaluation, they are selected as a 110% Green Flagship project and become part of the dynamic network of Flagship organisations.

One such initiative, EnerGcare, specifically focuses on the Green Economy Working for the Poor – a strategic focus area of 110% Green. EnerGcare provides access to renewable and efficient energy products for township residents, through a network of independent sales agents who market and sell directly to customers.

The range of products being distributed are specifically designed with the needs, circumstances and resources of township households in mind and includes affordable solar lights and cellphone chargers, low-smoke efficient wood-fired and charcoal-fired stoves, and heat-retention energy-saving cookers.

Independent energy provider Restio Energy MD Robert Aitken notes that township households are the hardest hit by rising energy costs and shack fires in winter, while the imminent threat of load-shedding is further forcing people to look for cheaper and safer alternatives.

He adds that the lack of sufficient retail infrastructure, coupled with limited awareness of the available energy options, prevents township residents from accessing the appropriate technologies.

“We know that renewable-energy and energy efficient technologies work; the challenge is to get these products to the people who need them the most,” he says, adding that the company finds and distributes household energy products and is one of the EnerGcare partner organisations.

Along with microfinance company PlaNet Finance and Philippi-based training academy, The Business Place, Restio Energy aims to build a network of microfranchises that will transform the way energy is used in townships.

“We echo premier Zille’s statement that the green economy is an important way of generating growth and creating jobs, while ensuring sustainability,” Aitken concludes.

EnerGcare currently operates in Khayelitsha, Alexandra and Soweto and is set to expand to additional areas by the end of 2013.

Other initiatives include Abalimi Bezekhaya – meaning the farmers of home – that aims to support a minimum of 165 sustainable grassroots microfarming jobs, valued at R300/m to R2000/m; the e-Khaya Fireproof Shack Replacement; and Best Biomass, aimed at removing alien biomass from the Berg river.

Preventing Shack Fires
Meanwhile, semiretired Canadian firefighter Kevin Dawson has launched an emergency candle, which is aimed at reducing accidental fires, particularly in homes where candles are the only source of lighting.

World Bank programme Lighting Africa has found there is an estimated 600-million people who do not have access to electricity and rely on candles and kerosene for lighting. “Lighting Africa hopes to enable 250-million people to use solar lighting by 2030, but what about the other 350-million?” asks Dawson.

He believes that his invention, Kevin’s Kandles, made from vegetable oil, water and a cotton wick, is a much cheaper alternative than solar-generated energy or the installation of electric power grids.

“These options, in developing countries, are also cost prohibitive and decades away from implementation. Further, such applications are possible only if they are supported by relief organisations on a donation basis. Power grids will never be feasible throughout rural communities,” Dawson adds.

He explains that the candles also hold economic growth opportunities for developing countries because, currently, candles provide little economic stimulation. “Through the reliance on domestic vegetable oil, almost 50% of monies generated from this consumable product remain in the country, thus stimulating its national economic development and sustainability.”

Further, Dawson explains that Kevin’s Kandles are more environment friendly than traditional candles made from paraffin wax.

“When burned, traditional candles release carcinogenic toxins, such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein and soot into the air, which is harmful to people and the environment, but this is not the case with the Kevin’s Kandles,” he concludes.