Africa is currently the least-urbanised continent, but that is changing quickly – estimates project that African cities will have 1.5 billion urban residents by 2050, most of them young people.
The United Nations has chosen to focus specifically on sustainable cities and communities in their Sustainable Development Goal number 11 (SDG 11) to examine how to amplify innovative thinking, technology and proactive responses to environmental risk can promote a better life for city dwellers. Added to this, the COVID-19 pandemic “has brought into sharp relief some of the fundamental inequalities at the heart of our towns and cities”, according to the head of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif.
We hope you will find some interesting case studies for green, smart and livable cities in this month’s newsletter as we report on Johannesburg and Cape Town’s intention to pro-actively pursue earth-friendlier electricity solutions, urban rainwater harvesting, youth-led solutions to waste management and the exciting work that is happening around urban farming. We’d love to hear from you if you know of case studies in these focus areas as we’ll be sharing more on the topic of green cities on our social media platforms this month:
Mycelium member Stefanie Swanepoel addresses Oxford Farming Conference
The Oxford Real Farming Conference is the biggest global conference of its kind. Established in 2010 by the founders of the Campaign for Real Farming, Colin Tudge and Ruth West, and writer Graham Harvey, it is a gathering of growers, activists, scientists, policymakers and economists looking to shift the world towards sustainable food systems.
Stefanie Swanepoel, a founding member of Mycelium, joined a panel discussion with David Otieno, National General Secretary and Policy Advisor for the Kenyan Peasants League and ad hoc member of the Technical Expert Group of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The panel was facilitated by Deidre “Dee” Woods, a well-known community food activist and a coordinating member of the Landworkers Alliance. The discussion focused on food security and aid in a post-COVID-19 world.
The 2021 seven-day online conference boasted 500 speakers from around the world. Topics ranged from knowledge sharing, access to land and water, climate justice, policy change to regenerative agricultural practices. All 150 hours of presentations can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/user/realfarmlife.
Speakers included the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, South Africa’s well-known activist Mariam Mayet from the African Centre for Biodiversity and Vandana Shiva, the renowned Indian activist for seed freedom and food sovereignty.
Ruth West notes that the aim of the conference is to “look ahead: to ask what the world really needs, and what’s possible, and to show what really can be done. Always on the agenda, or thereabouts, is the dream of an Agrarian Renaissance: to restore agriculture and all that goes with it to its proper place at the heart of the economy, and indeed of all our lives. Agriculture at present, and farmers, are marginalised. The thing that matters most for humankind is low on the global agenda.”
Stefanie noted about the conference that, “This was such an exciting forum to be in, filled with people determined to bring about a resurgence of real farming – farming done with integrity and respect for people, plants and planet.”
Pollinators Babalwa Mpayipeli and Hazel Nyaba (2nd and 3rd from left) are joined by fellow farmers and clients in discussing the new mulching technique being utilized at Valota Farm as they transition away from conventional farming methods to organic practices as a part of the Cape Flats PGS’s farm visit.
Launch of South Africa’s first Organic Pollinator Programme
Stefanie is also the Communications Manager for the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in Southern Africa (KH SA), part of the continent-wide Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture. The project runs in West, East, North and Central Africa to promote the adoption of organic agriculture in Africa.
Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGSs) are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on the active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange. PGS is gaining traction worldwide as an accessible and appropriate model for smallholder organic farmers seeking local markets.
In January 2021, as part of KH SA, the South African Organic Sector Organisation and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) South Africa launched the country’s first Pollinator Programme to train 20 people to set up PGSs that will help build more connected local food systems, provide organic assurance for consumers and support organic growers in sharing knowledge.
Fellow farmers, Department of Agriculture staff and clients discuss and review the farming practices at Valota Farm in Phillippi, Cape Town Western Cape during the Cape Flats PGS’s farm visit.
Colleen Anderson from the SAOSO Secretariat said: “Third-party certification for organic produce is often too expensive and administratively burdensome for smallholder farmers to attain. PGS is a consumer- and producer-based alternative, underpinned by the principles of shared vision, participation, trust and transparency. ”
For more information about the Pollinator Programme contact Sasha Mentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Africa’s cities to switch to solar as Eskom monopoly ends
South Africa’s biggest cities are preparing to source their own power after the energy ministry approval in October 2020 of a plan to wean themselves off the state utility that’s subjected cities to outages for the past 13 years. Although this will mean a significant loss of income for the beleaguered power monopoly Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, sustainable sources such as solar and power generated from landfill gas will allow residents in Johannesburg and Cape Town to cut their greenhouse gases and boost their fight against climate change. Eskom, which runs a fleet of coal-fired power plants, is the country’s worst polluter, accounting for about 40% of the greenhouse-gas emissions.
With a combined population of about 40 million, these two major cities will aim to pursue more sustainable, diverse sources of power. This is not only part of an effort to become climate resilient and carbon neutral by 2050 through cleaning up the fuels and activities that currently cause greenhouse gas emissions, but also about building a more inclusive and green economy, enabling a just transition and ultimately building better cities.
Cape Town plans to build a photovoltaic solar power plant by the end of the 2023 financial year, and investigating Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to deliver 300 megawatts of renewable energy, while Johannesburg aims to use solar plants and landfills, where gas from rotting garbage can be used to produce electricity.
The initiative is driven mainly by Eskom’s unreliability, the city’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and the need to protect customers from rising power prices, said Isaac Mangena, a spokesman for Johannesburg’s City Power utility. “City Power is still at early stages of the initiative and we expect the process to take at least 2 years,” he said.
“Pre-COVID-19, climate change was seen as one of the greatest risks for social advancement and economic growth. The last two years has seen the climate change and sustainability agenda gain new traction and take centre stage in many government policies across the world. The pandemic has highlighted the devastating economic impacts that global crises can have and has shown that planning for climate resilience and reducing emissions is increasingly important for all arms of government, institutions and businesses,” said the Ciape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy and Climate Change, Councillor Phindile Maxiti.
As part of Cape Town’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from human-made sources, they have released a Climate Change Strategy, which is currently out for public comment. A final Strategy as well as a Climate Action Plan, which outlines the pathway to achieving this, will be published next year.
Aquatecture: V&A Waterfront tests rain harvesting panels
Aquatecture rain harvesting panels, the brainchild of South African-born designer Shaakira Jassat, collects water by diverting raindrops flowing over the perforations on the surface to the inside of the system. From there the water trickles down into a collection tank where it can either be stored for later use, or can be pumped back into a building’s grey water system.
The V&A Waterfront will be among the first companies in South Africa to test this new design in rainwater harvesting technology. The panel is also currently being developed to harvest moisture from the atmosphere. Although Jassat lives in the Netherlands now, she witnessed Cape Town’s devastating drought when she attended the Cape Town Design Indaba as a speaker in 2018.
Manufactured from aluminium, the panels are resistant to corrosion and can be installed on the exterior of buildings or they can be used as freestanding units in areas with more open space. They will be tested at the Granger Bay parking garage over the next two years, and all water collected will be used at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market. Read more at Dezeen
Joburg wants to be a city of ‘green’ buildings by 2050
Johannesburg City Council has approved a draft policy to introduce the development of green, low energy consumption buildings. The Green Building policy is part of the city’s efforts to achieve low to net-zero carbon performance for all new buildings in Johannesburg by 2030 while achieving a total net-zero performance compliance standard by 2050. The policy will guide the development of green, low energy consuming buildings within the city powered by cleaner and renewable energy sources.
The draft policy stems from a partnership with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and a programme aimed to support cities to go above and beyond current building energy performance plans, to objective to achieve low to net-zero carbon performance for all new buildings in Johannesburg by 2030 and 100% buildings by 2050. This policy will guide the development of green, low energy consuming buildings within the City powered by cleaner and renewable energy sources.
The draft policy will streamline processes to improve customer experience and attract more potential investors. Once available, details of the public participation process of the draft policies will be shared with the public.
Collaborator of the Month: WWF Water Stewardship Programme
Content development for the Water Stories website meant connecting with many people doing important work around water. The Water Sources webpage features a section on Groundwater where we highlight the work of WWF’s Water Stewardship Programme, who generously shared graphics from their Groundwater Fact Sheet.
WWF works with diverse water users to drive the good management of South Africa’s critical river systems. They focus on the water-intensive agriculture and forestry sectors and spearhead support to ensure clearing of water-thirsty invasive vegetation. WWF has been working with a variety of landowners and farmers from stone fruit and wine in the Western Cape to sugarcane and dairy in KwaZulu-Natal and hops farmers in the southern Cape, as well as those involved in cattle farming in the interior grassland areas where some of our major rivers have their mountain beginnings.
By working with individual landowners they to empower water champions to unite neighbouring landowners within their river catchment, to approach shared challenges and start collaborative water initiatives. WWF has also designed the Water Risk Filter, a free online tool that provides a set of risk indicators and facilitates access to local data on water risk scenarios. This tool interprets 22 national datasets for assessing your locational risk and translates your in-house practices into risk numbers based on your responses to a questionnaire.
To diarise: The Blue Economy: Oceanhub Africa opens call for second incubator programme
Reports indicate that nearly eight-million pieces of plastic make it into our oceans each day, causing irreparable damage to the marine ecosystem. With more than 100 000 marine animals dying from plastic pollution each year, it requires efforts of those both in the private and public sectors to make a concerted difference in reducing plastic waste.
Oceanhub Africa, a Cape Town-based impact accelerator aims to support ocean-minded start-ups who employ technology to protect our marine environment. launching the second cohort of its six-month online acceleration program to support up to six of Africa’s most promising impact-for-profit startups focused on preserving and restoring the health of the ocean. The accelerator is currently inviting applications to join its second cohort of a six-month online programme to support up to six of Africa’s most promising impact-for-profit startups focused on preserving and restoring the health of the ocean. Apply here before 5 March 2021 and read up on the first cohort from 2020.
To diarise: Students Reinventing Cities Competition to Dream of Thriving, Green Neighbourhoods
Students Reinventing Cities is a global competition that provides a unique opportunity for academics and students to collaborate with global cities. Together they will imagine a more green, sustainable and inclusive vision for cities everywhere, by rethinking how neighborhoods are planned and designed.
The majority of the world’s green house gas emissions come from cities. As urban populations increase, we know that building compact, resilient and well-connected communities is our best chance to preserve our global resources and fragile biodiversity for future generations. Now more than ever, we must harness a model for low-carbon urban development that promotes a thriving and inclusive future for all city residents.
This competition comes at a key moment – we know that the next decade will determine whether we can avoid runaway climate change. Across the world, cities are strengthening their climate commitments and actions. They are developing an ambitious agenda for a green and just recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and building a broad coalition with youth climate activists, representatives from labour, business, academia and civil society. Competition starts accepting submissions from 18 March and the final deadline is 27 May 2021.
We need a London School of Ecology and Economics
I am sure that you are all fully aware that ecology and economy are twins. Both words come from Greek roots. ‘Eco’ or ‘oikos’ in Greek means home or household. ‘Logy’ or ‘logos’ means knowledge and ‘nomy’ or ‘nomos’ means management. So ecology is the knowledge of the household and economy is the management of the household. In the minds of Greek philosophers home or household is a very inclusive term. A home is where we have our bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. But a home is much more than that. A nation is also a home and ultimately the entire planet Earth is our home. At the LSE you are teaching economics. This means that you are teaching how to manage the Earth home. But you don’t seem to teach ecology. The Ecologist
Turn off that camera during virtual meetings, environmental study says
A new study says that despite a record drop in global carbon emissions in 2020, a pandemic-driven shift to remote work and more at-home entertainment still presents significant environmental impact due to how internet data is stored and transferred around the world. Just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming, for example, emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide (a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams), requires 2-12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini. But leaving your camera off during a web call can reduce these footprints by 96%. Purdue University
See Asia’s largest organic rooftop farm — located in busy Bangkok
Could cities actually be designed to improve the environment? Bangkok, Thailand, landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom thinks so. She has designed a new green roof on the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University, about 25 miles north of central Bangkok. Her imaginative work challenges the prevailing thinking that urbanization has to have a negative impact on the planet, whether it’s in the form of flooding due to paved surfaces, excessive energy use, disrupted biodiversity or the heat island effect. TED Ideas
We are loving …
… these initiatives which support our aim of living in a more sustainable world.
The Green Fund
The Government of SA through the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has created the Green Fund to support the transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient, and climate-resilient development path that delivers high impact economic, environmental, and social benefits. The fund is valued at R800-million, disbursed through the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to fund innovative and high impact green projects that will create jobs and decrease poverty in three priority categories; Environmental and Natural Resource Management, Low Carbon Economy, or Green Cities and Towns. Find out more
Drivers for Change Youth Green Projects
The South African National Biodiversity Institute in Pretoria announced the 13 winners of their Drivers for Change Youth pilot initiative in November 2020, recognising South African young entrepreneurs active in climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation, biodiversity and ecosystems and waste management solutions. A total of R1, 3 million prize money was awarded to the winners selected from over 250 applications and was supported financially by the British High Commission, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the German Technical Agency will provide technical support and training in business acumen. Read more about the winning projects.
Launch of #SustainableSA
In 2015, the United Nations set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. The overarching goal of the SDGs is to ensure a sustainable future, one that is peaceful and prosperous for both ourselves and our planet. The SDGs have been built on five P’s: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership, and by working on each of these, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants have launched a project that will release a rich programme of informative and accessible articles, tips, podcasts, webinars, Q&As, events and fundraisers, focusing on educating the public about the 17 SDGs. Professor Thuli Madonsela who recently recorded a special short video clip about the initiative. Read all about #SustainableSA