South African province of KwaZulu-Natal leads with community-focused climate adaptation

By Regions4 | October 6, 2023

Partner: Regions4
Implementer: KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA)
Country & Region: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Impact System: Human Settlements, Environment Management, Finance
Beneficiaries / Impact: 1,186 individuals directly employed in the projects; 109 tonnes of waste collected; 98 hectares of land freed from invasive alien flora species

In the heart of South Africa lies KwaZulu-Natal, the nation’s second most populated province. A land of beauty and contrast, it grapples with pressing challenges like water scarcity, inadequate river catchment management, and pollution stemming from informal settlements along its river systems. These issues are further exacerbated by high unemployment rates, making the region particularly susceptible to natural disasters such as floods and droughts. With limited resources available for recovery, the need for resilience has never been more paramount.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, regional governments have stepped up. Their pivotal role in climate adaptation and resilience is evident in their innovative approaches to riverine governance. By aligning their strategies with the welfare of their citizens, they unlock vital responses to these environmental challenges.

In 2021, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) initiated the first phase of the Transformative Riverine Management Programme (TRMP). This groundbreaking initiative aims to rehabilitate and manage riverine corridors sustainably, ensuring collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. At its core, TRMP champions a community-based strategy, addressing not only environmental but also socio-economic challenges. By generating employment, offering training, and nurturing skills development, the program empowers locals to tap into competitive job markets, ushering in a new era of economic opportunities for communities that have long been marginalized.

The results speak for themselves. The initial phase of TRMP, rolled out in Endumeni, KwaDukuza, and Ugu District municipalities between 2022 and 2023, stands as a testament to the transformative power of sustainable riverine management. The tangible benefits include:

  • 1,186 individuals directly employed in the projects.
  • 109 tonnes of waste collected.
  • 98 hectares of land freed from invasive alien flora species.

But beyond these impressive numbers lie invaluable lessons. The TRMP experience underscores the potential for profound impact even with limited investment. It highlights the urgency of scaling up projects across municipalities and river catchments to amplify their impact. Integrating riverine management into municipal budgets emerges as a non-negotiable for ensuring sustainability and expansion. The program also sheds light on the importance of education, awareness, and training in fostering climate-adaptive river and environmental management. Notably, the establishment of localized recycling centres presents a promising avenue to divert waste from landfills, furthering the cause of environmental conservation.

Central to TRMP’s ethos is its focus on the most vulnerable river catchments, those most at risk from natural disasters. The program’s socio-economic framework is tailored to support the unemployed, with a special emphasis on the youth, women, and disabled individuals. With 1,186 people directly employed in the projects, the ripple effect of this employment extends to their families and the broader community, creating a wave of positive change.

The Transformative Riverine Management Programme in KwaZulu-Natal is a testament to the power of resilience, and a shining example of what can be achieved when communities come together for a common cause. As we race towards 2030 with the goal of building resilience for 4 billion people, stories like these not only inspire but also remind us of the momentum that’s already underway.

Race to Resilience partner, Regions4, is supporting resilience building and promoting sustainable practices among regions across the world in a bid to put people and nature at the heart of adaptation. Discover our other partners.


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