South Africa—the third most biodiverse country in the world—is home to more than 95,000 known species and a diverse range of biomes, from forests to deserts to river delta systems and more. The rich biodiversity of these natural areas plays an important role in the South African Government’s progressive green economy agenda, as it recognizes that those areas provide a wide range of ecosystem services for its people, including food, water, clean air, medicine, resources for livelihoods, recreation, and energy to power daily life and industry.
Since 2015, South Africa has experienced drought and other changes to its regional climate. These changes threaten the balance of South Africa’s ecosystems, and they have hit the Western Cape Province particularly hard. As a result, the Western Cape Provincial Government, in line with the national government, has ramped up its green growth agenda and climate resilience planning. While the Government of South Africa has supportive policies and goals toward achieving a low-carbon economy, there is a gap in the technical capacity needed to implement and expand low emissions development at the sub-national level.
To help plug that gap, the USAID South Africa Low Emissions Development Program (SA-LED) worked with CapeNature to help implement and mainstream low emissions development into their already sustainability-focused mission. As the Western Cape custodian for conservation, CapeNature maintains 25 wilderness areas and public nature reserves in Western Cape. Per the CapeNature website, “the organization’s mission is to manage, conserve, and promote our human, natural, and heritage assets through best practice, access, benefit sharing, and sustainable use.”
A Partner in CapeNature
Cape Nature Senior management and SA-LED worked collaboratively to identify where best to implement low emissions development (LED) within the conservation organization. Wolwekloof Nature Reserve and Training Facility was identified as one that required technical inputs and was an ideal location to showcase implementation of low emissions development. Furthermore, SA-LED provided training and helped build capacity to support CapeNature’s mainstreaming LED into their training strategy.
The aim of the support was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by exploring and integrating green design into operations. SA-LED focused on the Nature Reserve’s waste and water facility, storm water systems, retrofitting of existing buildings, and advising on green development for new facilities. Training and capacity building helped integrate LED principles into the Education Unit’s strategy and learning resources. SA-LED trained the Education Unit at the Wolwekloof site to practically demonstrate the project development process, interventions, and broader LED principles, because learning by doing is crucial in ensuring the sustainability of SA-LED’s interventions.
SA-LED began with a feasibility study for environmentally sound energy, waste, and hydropower systems at Wolwekoof’s above- and below-ground infrastructure, which was used to develop green building recommendations for above-ground infrastructure. Next, SA-LED identified resource-saving opportunities for existing infrastructure, such as:
- Retrofit thermally inefficient buildings according to passive solar design and comprehensive green building principles.
- Apply shading techniques to neutralize heat islands throughout the site.
- Retain water on-site to feed the wastewater treatment work; if filtered and prepared correctly, rainwater can be harvested as potable water.
Capacity-building support would focus on integrating LED into the Education Unit’s strategy, projects, and learning resources to ensure hand-over and sustainability of SA-LED’s interventions well after the Program exits the market.
As a result of SA-LED’s work, CapeNature’s management has committed to integrating the recommendations into their organizational budget review processes, and education department staff have used the skills they received through the project to develop a resource kit focused on climate change and LED for distribution to its 25 nature reserves and to be used to train teachers, students, and CapeNature staff.
SA-LED was developed and is implemented in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Science and Innovation to support the Government of South Africa’s green growth agenda by strengthening public sector capacity through technical assistance, engaging with the private sector, and facilitating LED investment.
Mona Khadr is a communications specialist with the USAID South Africa Low Emissions Development program. She has previously worked for the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation and various Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organizations.