Africa and the Netherlands are showcasing their best examples of tackling the most pressing climate challenges on the continent. Africa is one of the continents most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index for 2015, seven of the ten countries most at risk from climate change are in Africa.
Netherlands’ Special Water Envoy Mr. Henk Ovink explains: “All major challenges in the world and in Sub-Saharan Africa for that matter, are connected and interdependent. The pressures posed on populations by floods, droughts, water pollution and the need for fresh water intertwine with basic needs for food, energy and income.”
Ovink is in South Africa on invitation of the Water Institute of South Africa (WISA 2016) and African Utility Week (AUW). Events are taking place in both Durban and Cape Town addressing similar challenges related to water, energy and agriculture. Although both conferences present the dilemmas and theoretical context, the Dutch intervention is focused on showcasing examples of tangible, sustainable African–Dutch solutions.
South Africa is currently facing its worst drought since 1903, resulting in 98% of the country’s water reserves being in use. “It is time to act,” says Ovink, who is a leading water expert. “There are already numerous projects that show results and can stimulate others to take action as well. What is clear is that these challenges call for an inclusive and comprehensive approach that is innovative and transformative, and enables scaling up and replication. We need these new inspirations and narratives to change the world.”
The relevance of the Netherlands’ presence at an event such as AUW is evident when considering the country’s geographical location. Without protection, 25% of the total landmass would be covered by water. “Water is and always has been the real asset for the Netherlands. Over centuries it was this connecting thread that guided us to collaborate and develop new solutions. Living in a densely populated delta with energy intensive industrial and agricultural sectors also means we continuously have to find innovative ways to generate and use energy. A cross-sector approach has been instrumental in finding the most sustainable and transformative solutions for our specific challenges. These solutions can and must motivate others!”
According to the Netherlands’ Consul General, Bonnie Horbach, who is hosting Ovink in Cape Town, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. “The best results are achieved when stakeholders are willing to listen to each other, share expertise and experiences and create solutions for local challenges. Tangible projects can showcase what is possible and inspire others to do the same.”
The keynote speech of the Dutch Water Envoy is just one of the highlights of the multilayered Dutch involvement at AUW. Showcasing successful African-Dutch co-operation projects aims to spark further inspiration.
One of these examples is a project called Solaris. Over the past few years there has been a rapid increase in demand for sustainable biomass and bio-energy resources worldwide. Project Solaris aims to grow sustainable bio-energy resources such as energy rich tobacco. Scaled up across South Africa Solaris sets the stage for local sustainable jet fuel production. Partners are working together with small to medium sized community farmers (i.e. smallholder co-ops) and commercial farmers.
In order to support the community farmers, there is a key role for the local cooperative (Loskop Cooperation) to provide and manage inputs, funding, farming equipment and more. In this project there is also a clear focus on training and educating local farmers and field officers to ensure that knowledge of best agricultural practices is shared.
Another example of cooperation is the Kingfisher project on water governance. The Kingfisher project aims to build up a regional water governance structure through Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs). Water governance, the way we manage our water for increased safety and improved quality, is critical to secure water for all. But good water governance, when not historically present, is tough to achieve. These entities face many challenges and through the Dutch – South African collaboration, the Kingfisher project aims at increasing their capacity. The CMAs work closely with the Dutch Regional Water Authorities.