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Crossing the river by feeling the stones...

by Katherine Fillmore 

Crossing the river by feeling the stones

The 5th Annual Water Stewardship Event

Strengthening the water value chain through partnerships in association with SWPN - Strategic Water Partnership Network, NatuRes, German Cooperation, GIZ, NBI - National Business initiative and the Royal Danish Embassy. 

The National Business Initiative (NBI) is a voluntary coalition of South African and multinational companies, working towards sustainable growth and development in South Africa.

The aim of the event was to learn about the water value train and be inspired to take on new initiatives. 

Thembi Mkhize from SWPN outlined the event as a ‘voluntary engagement platform for public and private sector to contribute to water sustainability with the aim to develop water projects that address the ‘what next?’ question and provide a platform for dialogue between relevant participants.’ 

It was a brilliant platform and with the help of Michelle Proude, who helped organise the event, I was introduced to a number of key players. I got to be filmed by USAID outlying the work we are doing and during the event Pretoria News contacted me for another article on the river. Awareness is growing and change is imminent. It was also great to meet Andrew Barker and colleague working hard at ARMOUR. An inspiring talk by Faye Brownwell, representing the uMgeni River Ecological Infrastructure Partnership, shed light on where we as a team on the Hennops are standing and where we can go. ‘The issue is so big we need help. We need to change the landscape,’ said Faye. They managed to solidify partnerships that attracted investment partnerships. 

Central to the event was that communities must take ownership of their water embracing the spirit of continuous improvement.

Jorgensen Erik Larse, from the Royal Danish Embassy, has contributed extensively to water conservation in this country and outlined the poignant point, ‘Together we are stronger. Alone we can walk fast but together we can get much further.’ He highlighted the value of education and the power it had to uplift Denmark. ‘Youth were empowered through education and training.  This brought partnerships in Denmark which led to partnerships around water. 

Denmark has 2500 water works in partnerships operated by citizens where stakeholders take ownership and move away from blaming government.’

‘Management of our water is a matter of huge concern as we have large challenges.  We need to work in a focused and systematic way to get through and failure is not an option,’ said Joanne Yawich (NBI). 

‘We have to strengthen relationships with government, business and municipalities. Stakeholders help in meaningful way to mobilize municipal capacity. We need to realize the economic opportunities presented by waste water treatment. Partnerships need to be expanded.’ 

Very exciting news is the establishment of a Gauteng Water Alliance with the first meeting taking place on 5 Dec focusing on securing water supply of Vaal. See you all there! 

It was good to meet Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Chief Director Ndileka Mohapi. She outlined that water security is of paramount importance and that strong partnerships have brought us here. DWS works in partnership with Denmark. ‘We cannot do it alone but as a team we can conquer more.’ 

Ndileka concluded ‘I would like to challenge NGOs to put their heads together to improve on aspects of water losses.’ She said aging infrastructure is a focus with good initiatives underway to birth new products. She outlined that all the work we are doing on the river is being fully noticed by DWS and encouraged strong collaborations. ‘We would like to take opportunities to be partners wherever we are afforded the opportunity.’  

It was wonderful to see Kirsten Mahood from i4water who is working towards a collaboration with at Kaalfontein. She introduced me to her dynamic team and her video presentation on the uplifting community work they are doing was inspiring. Volunteers become teachers, researchers, environmental leaders! ‘A drop of water is worth more than a sack of gold to a thirsty man,’ said Kirsten. 

Dhevan Govender from the eThekwini Municipality presented on the power of PPPs - Strengthening water service delivery through public private partnerships. ‘Municipality has the vision but private sector has the resources.’ He outlined the effectivity of work being done through the private sector on waste water treatment plants. 

The whole event was expertly captured in form of graphic harvesting, which took the form of an artistic vision board illustrating the key concepts outlined. Take a look at the final image in the photo below. Super cool! 

Crossing the river by feeling the stones

Emphasis was placed on the importance of communities helping maintain and protect their water service  infrastructure. This encourages a holistic participatory approach which empowers communities. We have seen this effect in our AREHLWEKISENG - Let’s Clean community clean up campaign. People empower themselves learning different skills. We watched a video on a community in Natal taking responsibility for water supply and an old man entertained the audience by saying he never thought he would become an engineer. 

We have a huge responsibility to look after our ecological structures! We need to engage the youth in this process. Solid partnerships need to be established to finance these collaborations engaging and empowering communities. 

Satheke Papi Motlhampi, from the Diepsloot Water and Sanitation Forum called for assistance and invited all attending the event to join him in a tour of Diepsloot township so they could truly experience the needs of the area. May he be blessed with great support! 

The event ended with me joining a breakout discussion session hosted by David Lindley from WWF - World Wildlife Fund. We were shown a presentation on a Water Risk Filter, a free app - empowering users to assess, and respond to water risks.

The WWF is doing phenomenal work safeguarding the source of South Africa’s water future. ‘We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds, and  in the process we heal our own.’ Wangari Maathai

There are amazing water stewards in our country. Zonderend Water Steward Lana leads eight clearing g teams and one restoration team in the Riviersonderend.  Her work in the area has secured employment for 107 people for the next three years. Lana has managed to unlock almost R1 million of government funding for 2019-2021. ‘The Riviersonderend alien clearing project has enlightened me regarding the value of our deep, slow moving reliable river. I have the feeling that one gets when a desperately sick child turns the corner and starts getting better.’ Ross Phillip, Zonderend Landowner. Here’s to healing our sick child the Hennops River! 

Nicholas Tandi, 2030 Water Resources Group and advisor to SWPN concluded the event with: ‘The answer is in our hands!’ 

River warriors it is up to us to us through strategic partnerships to make this happen! 

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