The Coca-Cola Foundation, partners rehabilitate 11 500 ha in ongoing water conservation projects

22nd March 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Coca-Cola in South Africa, along with its partners, has collectively rehabilitated and improved land management practices across more than 11 500 ha as it reaffirms its commitment to conserving water.

Through the Replenish Africa Initiative (Rain), the Coca-Cola Foundation invested $65-million to provide access for six-million people in more than 4 000 communities across 41 countries to clean water and sanitation, productive use of water and watershed protection.

In South Africa, the foundation invested in four new projects in 2022 to remove “thirsty” invasive alien plants from critical water catchment areas feeding major cities and towns across the country.

“Water is essential to every person and every ecosystem in the world. It is also essential to the products we make and the agricultural ingredients we use. For this reason and others, Coca-Cola has committed to replenishing every drop of water we use back to the environment as part of the company’s 2030 Water Security Strategy,” says Coca-Cola Africa, South Africa public affairs, communications and sustainability director Babongile Mandela.

So far, the Coca-Cola Foundation has committed $989 571 in grant funding to return litres to nature by rehabilitating degraded landscapes, removing invasive alien plants and supporting local communities to improve their land management practices.

The rehabilitation activities range from reducing soil erosion on mountain slopes by improving grazing practices, to cutting down invasive alien plants, tailored to the local context and circumstances of the landscape.

The projects have provided more than 155 jobs, 82 of which went to women and 35 to youths.

In addition to employment, these beneficiaries also receive skills training in veld and fire management, first aid, chainsaw use and herbicide application, besides others, to improve their future employability in the green economy.

The Coca-Cola Foundation highlights a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa in the Enkangala Drakensberg of Mpumalanga which supports the Integrated Vaal River System serving Gauteng by investing in improved land management upstream and will expand the existing protected area network in the Enkangala Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area by 25 000 ha.

The project will be accompanied by improved land management practices across 12 000 ha in collaboration with two local community property associations in Wakkerstroom and Donkerhoek.

Coca-Cola’s bottling partners are also committed to water restoration enterprises.

Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa initiated Coke Ville: innovative off-grid solar-powered groundwater harvesting systems that pump, treat, store, and distribute clean water.

Coke Ville launched in 2020 with three systems in Limpopo and has expanded to a total of 32 sites across the country, including in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Each project is designed to provide these communities with 10-million to 20-million litres of water a year. To date, over 400-million litres have been distributed to over 25 000 households throughout the country.

Similarly, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (CCPB) focuses on water conservation in its daily operations.

Over the past 11 years, CCPB has reduced its water use by 50%, and was awarded a five-star rating by the City of Cape Town for water preservation in 2019.

CCBP continues to deliver water to drought-stricken communities and is a regular initiator and participant in coastal clean-ups that aim to remove damaging litter from South African beaches and oceans. 

These water-centric initiatives contribute to the water pillar under JAMII, which is an Africa-focused sustainability platform launched by Coca-Cola Africa in 2022.

JAMII houses existing and new sustainability initiatives in the areas of waste management, water stewardship and economic empowerment of women and youth.

“Through JAMII, we are partnering with local communities, government, and like-minded organisations to assess, understand and drive effective sustainability goals. These will include providing people with access to safe drinking water, supporting communities with skills and job creation, or reducing the impact of our operations on the environment,” says Mandela.