To remind South Africans of the value of water and the need to protect and conserve our country’s water resources, the newly appointed Vice President of the South Africa franchise at Coca-Cola Africa, Phillipine Mtikitiki, is prioritising key sustainability issues such as water stewardship.
“Access to safe water remains a challenge in many of the communities in which we operate in South Africa and we, together with our bottling partners, have made it a priority to improve reliable access to safe water, to protect our water resources and replenish the water we use back into nature,” says Mtikit.
South Africa faces a number of challenges when it comes to water, but Mtikitiki says:
“We are improving the overall water-use efficiency in our manufacturing plants as well as along our supply chain, partnering with government and communities to assess, understand and drive effective, long-term water stress solutions and replenish the water we use back to communities and nature,” she says.
When it comes to replenishing the equivalent of the water used in the making of its beverages, The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) focuses on replenishing water into nature in key watersheds by clearing alien invasive plants. These consume millions of litres of water each year, resulting in water shortages permanent loss to an already stressed water system.
Since 2019, RAIN has worked with partners such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa (WWF-SA), Living Lands and the Endangered Wildlife Trust to clear 3 400 hectares in South Africa’s priority catchment areas, helping to replenish over an estimated 15-billion litres of water into nature over the next decade. The programme also provided employment and skills training for 389 women and young people in rural areas of South Africa.
“Water is a valuable natural resource whose management requires all our commitment and collective actions.” This is part of the motivation for local bottling partner, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa’s (CCBSA) Coke Ville Groundwater Harvesting Project, which provides access to water in certain water-scarce, remote communities with limited economic opportunities. This has taken place in the community of Tshikota, Limpopo, with five additional community access projects planned for deployment across KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape in March.
Relief water also plays an important part of humanitarian operations to bring relief to drought-stricken communities. Since the beginning of the year, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (CCPB) has been working with local municipalities in water-stressed regions in the Northern and Western Cape, leading relief water operations to assist communities. This has been a lifeline for people in these communities that have, at times in the past few weeks, been without water for up two days.
Expanding on its efforts in the Namakwa and Karkarms district in the Northern Cape, CCPB is now working to provide water relief to Merweville, Laingsburg and Touws River. To date, CCPB has delivered over 3-million litres of water using the tankers it invested in during the drought crisis to assist communities as well as providing specially produced Relief Water in 1L bottles.
“We’re confident that through our water stewardship efforts we will continue to make a difference and protect this most valuable resource,” concluded Mtikitiki.
Coca-Cola’s RAIN set to replenish 15-billion litres of water over the next decade
With the effects of climate change including prolonged droughts, extreme weather and higher temperatures already being felt in many regions of South Africa, the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) is helping to ensure billions of litres of water is given back to communities and replenished in nature for the next ten years.
Funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, RAIN funds five major projects in South Africa to help restore priority catchment areas by removing thirsty, invasive alien plants, while creating valuable employment opportunities for women, youth and families by supporting water-related projects.
“These important water catchment areas feed our communities, towns and cities, yet thirsty alien invasive plants are consuming millions of litres of this precious resource unnecessarily from these areas each year,” says Beatriz R. Perez, Chair and President at The Coca-Cola Foundation.
“As part of our broader water stewardship programme, RAIN is helping to rehabilitate thousands of hectares of land and replenish water while economically empowering families.”
Beatriz R. Perez, Chair and President at The Coca-Cola Foundation
Most of these strategic water sources are located in remote areas, with limited economic or skills development opportunities. In addition to the environmental benefits these projects bring, they also focus on creating jobs, upskilling individuals, and providing support and training for sustainable economic opportunities. Collectively, these projects created 389 jobs in South Africa’s rural, priority catchment areas.
The five projects are spread across South Africa and focus on involving local communities, while addressing water security on a larger scale. Implementing partners provide development expertise and additional resources required to implement the projects sustainably.
The five implementing projects include the following:
Wemmershoek Dam, serving The Greater Cape Town area: Working with The Nature Conservancy, this project cleared over 2,500 hectares on the upper slopes of the Wemmershoek Dam catchment, creating 202 jobs, specifically empowering 62 women and youth.
uMzimvubu Watershed Restoration, Matatiele, serving East London in the Eastern Cape: Working with The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa , this project cleared 115 hectares of invasive alien plants and created 60 jobs, empowering 32 women and 39 youth. Additionally, this project protected 5 natural springs, improving the community’s access to spring water. Working with local traditional authorities, livestock management was improved and grazing rotations were established, economically empowering 437 people through grazing association memberships and access to cattle auctions.
Wolseley Wetlands Restoration, serving Wolseley and the Greater Cape Town area: Partnering with The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa , this project cleared invasive alien plant species from a critical biodiverse wetlands area in the Upper Breede River Valley in this important agricultural region. The project cleared 470 hectares and created 94 jobs, empowering 42 women and 39 youth.
Algoa Water Fund, Diep River, Eastern Cape serving Nelson Mandela Bay: Working with implementing parter Living Lands, this project cleared thirsty invasive alien plant species from the Impofu Dam, a key upstream catchment area for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Additionally, the team worked with local landowners to create a cohesive and collaborative long-term catchment management plan for the area. This project cleared over 260 hectares of invasive alien plants and created 21 jobs in an extreme rural area with high rates of unemployment.
Soutpansberg Mountains of Limpopo, serving Kutama, Limpopo Valley and Musina: Working with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, this project cleared 32 hectares and created 12 jobs, empowering five women and youth. To complement their ecological work, the team trained 701 local school children on hygiene and water conservation. In addition, the project team also worked with local landowners on the proclamation of the western Soutpansberg Nature Reserve to protect 4 000 hectares under improved conservation management with the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism’s Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.
A further US$500 000 from The Coca-Cola Foundation will be invested for an additional 12 months for three of these projects – The Greater Cape Town Water Fund in Atlantis, Matatiele in the Eastern Cape and the Soutpansberg Mountains of Limpopo.
Across Africa, The Replenish Africa Initiative is on track to positively impact more than 6 million people through a diverse range of water-based initiatives by the end of 2020. Over the past decade, RAIN has positively impacted at least 250 000 women and youth and returned 18.5bn litres to communities and nature through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programmes as well as watershed protection.
As climate change disrupts the water system, affecting drinking water supplies, sanitation, food and energy production, The Coca-Cola Foundation and its local implementing partners are collaborating to facilitate strategic investments in South Africa’s key watersheds. These efforts will pay dividends with the optimisation of the country’s water supply into the future.
“As Coca-Cola, we believe that the most effective work happens when there is collaboration across the public and private sectors for the benefit of the local communities,” concludes Perez.
The Coca-Cola Foundation The Coca-Cola Foundation is the global philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company. Since its inception in 1984, TCCF has awarded more than $900 million in grants to support sustainable community initiatives around the world. More information about TCCF can be found here. About the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN)
In response to the severe water challenges faced by nearly 300 million Africans living without access to clean water, Coca-Cola introduced RAIN in 2009. RAIN is Coca-Cola’s contribution to helping Africa achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on clean water and sanitation access. To date, RAIN has reached more than 2.8 million people with improved water access, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) across 41 countries. By the end of 2020, RAIN aims to measurably improve the lives of at least six (6) million people in Africa through sustainable WASH interventions.
The Nature Conservancy The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa For nearly 60 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in over 100 countries and is supported by more than one million members in the United States and close to five million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.
Living Lands Living Lands is a not-for-profit organization for conserving and restoring living landscapes. A living landscape consists of a variety of healthy ecosystems and land uses, and is home to ecological, agricultural, and social systems, which are managed so as to function sustainably. This ensures that natural and cultural resources are available for future generations and that the system is resilient for adaptation to climate change.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. It is a beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together.
Women trailblazers lead the way in water conservation through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN)
Women-inspired partnerships in South Africa are creating uniquely positive impacts on both the environment and livelihoods. This is with support from the Coca-Cola Foundation, through its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN). These are partnerships led by women through all-women teams or through the training provided to women, which creates jobs, saves water and conserves our biodiversity.
RAIN was launched by the Coca-Cola Foundation in 2010 to provide access to safe drinking water for six million people in Africa by the end of 2020. The programme works with implementing partners to not only bring clean water to communities but also to create valuable employment opportunities for women, youth and families by supporting a wide range of water-related projects across the continent. Here are some of the stories of impact being created across South Africa.
First female wood chipping operation in Wolseley, Western Cape
Wolseley is a small town in the upper Breede River Valley region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. The Kluitjieskraal Wetland, a key feature in the Breede headwaters, is an area where large infestations of alien invasive trees and water weeds choke the channels and prevent the sufficient flow of water into the Breede River. The RAIN programme’s partnership with The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is helping to clear 470 hectares of alien invasive plants. This initiative will not only release significant amounts of water into the Breede River but also allows the wood biomass collected from the alien clearing to create valuable mulching material for local farmers growing fruit and vegetables. The mulch produced is used by farmers to conserve soil moisture and improve the fertility and water efficiency of their grounds.
Alongside alien clearing and improving water efficiency in the region, the project has offered women from the community employment and skills training related to alien clearing management, which will significantly improve their future employment prospects. The project has supported the establishment of the first black, female-owned wood chipping operation in the region. This small business currently supplies mulch to large fruit farms in the Wolseley area. The business also provides permanent employment to community members that were either previously unemployed or only had access to sporadic seasonal work on the local fruit farms.
Wood chipping SME owner, Lynda Jansen, explained that Wolseley has high levels of unemployment and there are limited opportunities for women in the community.
Water for the people: working with local communities to conserve water in the Soutpansberg
Another RAIN project is underway in the Soutpansberg, located in South Africa’s northern mountain range in the Vhembe District of Limpopo. RAIN’s implementing partner, The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is using the project’s investment to protect source water and engage the local community children on hygiene and water-related issues.
The Soutpansberg mountain is under threat from the spread of invasive alien trees, which has had a huge impact on water resources in the area. To counter and reduce the impact of the alien invasive trees, EWT’s woman-led team are clearing 32 hectares of invasive plants in its upper catchment areas. In addition to this, the team is working with local landowners to formally protect the upper catchment areas under the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism’s Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.
EWT’s Soutpansberg Protected Area Water Conservation Project Coordinator, Catherine Vise, that the mountain is unique and needs to be protected for many reasons.
Clearing alien invasive plants to refresh natural springs in Matatiele
In Matatiele, an area of the Eastern Cape with numerous socio-economic challenges, extensive alien plant invasion has drastically reduced water flow to a network of natural springs and reduced the number of available grazing resources for cattle farmers in this remote area. This RAIN project has employed predominately female staff to its alien clearing team. With women at the helm of the project’s operations, the female-led team is helping to restore and secure water resources in the Upper Umzimvubu Watershed in Matatiele.
Working within communities dependent upon natural resources for their livelihood, the project has increased job security and empowered women by providing skills training and employment opportunities with long-term benefits.
The Environmental and Rural Solutions’ Sissie Matela is one of Matatiele’s female implementing partners. Matela explained that empowering women and communities is key to long-term sustainability and restoring healthy ecosystems.
Protecting major water source areas in the Western Cape
In the Wemmershoek dam catchment area, working with implementing partner The Nature Conservancy, a RAIN project aims to clear invasive plant species to protect a major water source area for Cape Town.
In addition to addressing bulk water security, the Greater Cape Town Water Fund Wemmershoek RAIN Project focuses on employing, training, and mentoring women from local communities. Women are prioritised for employment and natural leaders are then identified and mentored to run their own clearing teams and eventually, establish their own small enterprises.
The work in Wemmershoek builds on a successful pilot project in Atlantis, where TCCF provided catalytic funding to kickstart the Greater Cape Town Water Fund. That work concluded in June 2018, providing 77,000 people with improved water security and mentored 5 women to develop the skill set to run their own clearing teams.
The General Manager of Coca-Cola’s South African Franchise, Luis Avellar, explained that the RAIN initiative has helped women become empowered and create more employment opportunities.