Sustainable Rainwater Harvesting to Support Homestead Gardening
Ethekwini Water and Sanitation
South Africa

The Problem

As with many countries around the world, South Africa has been feeling the effects of the global economic recession. Around one million jobs have been lost since the end of 2008, and the unemployment rate currently stands at roughly 24.5%. This impacts upon the poorest members of society first, as they are often the first to lose jobs, and can quickly become unable to provide for themselves or their families. The levels of poverty in many regions of the country are therefore increasing, along with the unemployment rates.

In many informal housing areas in and around the major cities, people have had to start looking for alternative ways to feed and support their families. One such option is starting vegetable gardens at their homes, to provide food for their families, and a potential source of income. However, this is often difficult, as people do not have access to enough water to be able to irrigate these gardens. In the eThekwini Municipality (in KwaZulu-Natal), those in informal housing only have access to 300litres of free potable water a day, which needs to be used for all cooking, washing and eating purposes first. Although some use the greywater emanating from their used potable water to irrigate the gardens, many do not know to do this, and are unable to access a sustainable water source. Some have even resorted to digging holes next to the sides of the roads to catch rainwater. The Reconciliation Strategy of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA) stated that KwaZulu-Natal is also reaching its limits in terms of providing potable water to all its residents from existing sources.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The initiative had provided rainwater harvesting tanks (with a capacity of 5000 litres) to 1000 households in the Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu and Mzinyathi areas by the end of 2009. The tanks supplement the use of greywater for the irrigation of home gardens, and can also provide backup drinking water for areas without access to piped water. It also enables beneficiaries to expand their gardens to improve food security and provide opportunities for generating additional income. Along with the rainwater tank, households were provided with gutter systems, and supply taps at the base of the tanks.

Households were chosen for the project on the basis that they were some of the most vulnerable community members, and showed evidence of existing food gardens (ie. Showing application and commitment to growing crops). Beneficiaries then received a one-day formal practical training workshop in how to establish and manage homestead gardens. They were also given tools to help establish these, including a hoe, organic compost, seed trays, seeds and seedlings. Beneficiaries also received training in how to develop their own compost, but additional organic compost will be provided by the eThekwini Water Treatment Works to active gardeners. Mentoring and support was provided to these households, and assessment was undertaken after several months. Active gardens were rewarded with additional compost and seeds.

Local contractors attended accredited training workshops, and were used to install the ferro-cement rainwater tanks, including bases and lids. An accredited training programme was also developed for area agricultural facilitators or “champions”. These champions facilitate linkages between gardens and the Municipality; and between gardeners and potential markets. Temporary job opportunities were also created for plasterers, plumbers, storemen and community facilitators.

Thus, the project enabled numerous households to be able to access sustainable supplies of water to irrigate food gardens. This helps to increase their food security, and enables them to access a source of income. Other job opportunities were provided for local community members through the construction of the tanks; through ongoing monitoring and assessment of the home gardens; and through facilitating the links between gardeners, and the Municipality and potential markets.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The project was designed in the main by the eThekwini Water Services, in partnership with the Valley Trust, an NGO with experience in piloting rainwater harvesting initiatives, and Khanyisa Project – a training organisation. The eThekwini Water Services (EWS) were also mainly responsible for its implementation: this included recruiting contractors, consultants and other service providers; installing the rainwater harvesting tanks; connecting the guttering; supplying training and supervision to local contractors and labourers; and supplying materials to construct the water tanks. EWS also helped to establish a Rural Area Based Management Team (ABM), and a Project Steering Committee (PSC). Khanyisa Projects helped to manage the training processes, including providing accredited training to contractors, developing the accredited training package for the area champions, and providing training to the beneficiaries.

The ABM was developed to manage the project and the finances. The PSC was made up of local community members, and helped to liaise between the community and other stakeholders at monthly planning meetings. They also assisted in identifying and recruiting local contractors, reporting back to the community about issues regarding the project, and reporting to the officials about issues arising from the community. Local councillors also helped in many of these functions, as well as providing legislative support and helping to oversee the project. The Community Champions educated and communicated with the community, visiting each household and assisting householders in completing questionnaires, and educating households on the operation and maintenance of the services provided. The University of KwaZulu-Natal is undertaking research into the use of greywater for homestead gardening, and is using the current initiative to gather data.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The project has three main objectives: providing sustainable sources of water to improve food security and as an alternative to potable water; raising the awareness of communities on the livelihood and food security opportunities that home food production provides; and transferring skills to the community to develop further livelihood opportunities.

The first objective was achieved through providing rainwater harvesting tanks, along with specialised guttering and taps, so that households with food gardens could access a sustainable source of water. The tanks hold 5000litres and can therefore provide both an irrigation source for home gardens, as well as an alternative source of potable water if the municipal water supply does not deliver. This has also helped to reduce pressure on the water supply mechanisms in the province, which were becoming strained. The second objective was achieved through providing education and awareness-raising initiatives to local community members. Beneficiary households received training on establishing and maintaining home food gardens, as well as developing their own compost. They were also provided with necessary tools to make their gardens more successful, including hoes, compost, seeds, seedlings, seed trays, and potential markets. The area champions also provided information to other community members on the potential for food security and income opportunities from food gardens, as well as creating links between established gardeners and markets.

Training the area champions also helped to achieve the third objective – transferring skills to the community to develop further livelihood opportunities. In addition, local contractors received accredited training in a number of fields, and were provided with job opportunities in the construction and installation of the water tanks. The design of the tanks (ferro-cement, instead of plastic) was specifically chosen to provide employment and work experience opportunities for local contractors during their installation.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
One of the initial incentives for the project came from the Water Reconciliation Strategy of the DWEA, which stated that KwaZulu-Natal was reaching its limits in terms of being able to provide potable water from existing resources. The mayor and other key politicians in the eThekwini Municipality initiated the project, and EWS developed a business plan, which was submitted to the Municipal Infrastructure grant for funding. Once this was approved, a Project Steering Committee was established to ensure that the needs and concerns of the community were represented and addressed at the start of the project. Joint consultation between the PSC, the local councillor, and the social consultant led to the identification of 1000 beneficiaries.

The PSC and community members received training from Khanyisa Project; and training was also provided to local contractors. An accredited training programme was also developed for the area champions. Beneficiaries were divided into groups of 40 based on proximity, and completion of their rainwater tanks. Training was only provided once the water tanks had been completed. These groups received one-day formal practical training in establishing and managing homestead gardens, and were given tools (hoe, organic compost, seeds, seeds trays, and seedlings). Mentoring and support was provided to beneficiaries in the weeks after the workshop; and after several months an assessment of each garden was undertaken. Active gardens were rewarded with additional compost and seeds. Monitoring and evaluation was undertaken by an independent consultant at various stages of the implementation, and this allowed the project team and stakeholders to review and improve the process where and if necessary.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
There were a number of challenges encountered by the project. Numerous technical and logistical problems arose, including the steep terrain around the project area (which made transport of materials difficult); and the fact that the availability of materials was not always secure. This was addressed by developing site camps closer to the construction sites to allow for more efficient transport and stockpile of crucial materials. Initially, a number of the contractors recommended by the PSC had low education levels and minimal experience, resulting in the quality of the watertanks being compromised at times. This was addressed through providing accredited training programmes to contractors, and tighter controls were implemented by the construction project manager. There was also initially a large amount of theft of copper fittings, which was reduced through using plastic fittings instead, and casting concrete around copper pipes.

The local councillor occasionally interfered in the appointment of local constructors for construction and in choosing beneficiaries for the project. This led to the above-mentioned problem of poor quality in the water tanks; and to a number of households falling out of the programme because they did not maintain their gardens. There is not much that can be done in this round of implementation, but it was decided to strictly adhere to selection criteria for future roll-outs. A number of community members and members of the PSC believed that the guttering was of inferior quality, and demonstrations and meetings were conducted to demonstrate its effectiveness and innovation. Agricultural challenges also presented themselves, as the quality of the soil in the area is very poor, and many of the growers could not afford seedlings. An Agricultural Management Unit (AMU) was therefore established to assist with these challenges in the future. In the meantime, organic compost was sourced from the eThekwini Waste Water Works to improve soil quality, while the AMU is working towards making subsidised seeds and seedlings available in the future.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
50% of the project funding was made available through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG), and the remaining 50% was sourced from the eThekwini Municipality. The total cost for the 1000 beneficiaries amounted to R9 104 000. Each beneficiary was allocated R9 104 (including labour, plants, materials, gardening education and implements, and services). A further R200 000 was received from the Development Bank of SA for the development of training material and accreditation. The finances were managed by the ABM.

The project was designed by EWS and Valley Trust; and training was provided by Khanyisa, assisted by Newlands Mashu Permaculture Centre. This included providing accredited training, developing new accredited training courses for the area champions, and providing practical agricultural workshops and mentoring support to beneficiaries. EWS and the PSC were the main implementers of the project, choosing beneficiaries and contractors, and sourcing consultants to provide training. EWS also sourced and supplied materials to construct the water tanks.

Area champions provided ongoing mentoring and support to the beneficiaries, as well as providing education to other community members. External evaluators assessed the programmes; while the University of KwaZulu-Natal is using the project as a study into the use of greywater for homestead gardens in terms of benefits to crops and health issues.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
A number of problems arose in the development and implementation of the current initiative. However, an AMU was established to help to address these problems in the future. Each rainwater tank and garden already established will be recorded on the AMU database and managed by them in the future. This will help the AMU to sustain the agricultural and marketing support provided during the project. The AMU will also aim to link the growers with sustainable markets for their products; and an agricultural facilitator/champion will be trained to support groups of growers. Thus, the development of the AMU will help to ensure the sustainability of the programme. Because the community members were involved in the project from the start (ie. From the initial discussions onwards), there is strong community buy-in into the project, which also improves its sustainability potential.

The impact of the project is also sustainable, as it can help people achieve food security and access new sources of income. This income can then help them to buy further seeds and materials for their gardens, which will improve food security. EWS will also provide aftercare in the operation and maintenance of the rainwater harvesting system, which again improves the sustainability of the projects impact.

The Municipality is already planning to roll this project out to other areas, due to the success of the pilot, and in accordance with the recommendations in the Water Reconciliation Strategy. Preliminary work has been approved by City authorities for two other areas. Replication will be relatively easy within the municipality, as the same internal project management team can be used, and the process has been well-documented. Lessons learned in the pilot can also be incorporated to help improve on the process. Thus, the project is easily replicable within the eThekwini Municipality, and is already taking place.

Replication in other municipalities would require strong internal project management teams, who would be need to be able to find the necessary funding. However, other municipalities could use the experience of eThekwini to make this easier. Training from eThekwini could assist in this, as well as using the accredited training programmes. Local needs would also have to be researched, and a training service provider would have to be identified and appointed. These are not huge obstacles, and the project would therefore not be too difficult to replicate in other areas, especially if they are able to draw on the experience and resources developed by eThekwini.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The main impact of the project has been providing sustainable water sources to selected beneficiaries, who then have improved food security, and opportunities for income-generation. By providing links with potential markets, the project has again improved the chances for income-generation for gardeners. It has also provided training and job opportunities to numerous local contractors, again improving livelihood possibilities.

The main lesson learnt is that local councillors need to be very clear on their roles and responsibilities in the project, and should be aware that interference will not be tolerated. Some screening of local contractors also needs to take place, to ensure that the installation and construction of the rainwater tanks is of suitable quality; and the selection criteria for beneficiaries needs to be strictly adhered to. If not, gardens will not succeed, and households will fall out of the project despite the presence of rainwater tanks. It will also be easier to implement the project if a high-level project “champion” is on-board. In this case, the mayor of eThekwini Municipality was one of the main stakeholders, which helps with funding acquisition and achieving stakeholder buy-in.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ethekwini Water and Sanitation
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Teddy Gounden
Title:   Education Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +27 31 311 8667
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   PO Box 1083
Postal Code:   4000
City:   Durban
State/Province:   KwaZulu-Natal
Country:   South Africa

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