uMshwathi local municipality undergoes training with WESSA to improve water security in the uMngeni/uMvoti catchment areas
A recent collaboration between the uMshwathi municipality and the WESSA/WWF-SA Capacity for Catchments Partnership Project represents a constructive step forward towards securing the uMngeni and uMvoti water catchment’s ecological infrastructure.
Under the auspices of the Capacity for Catchments Partnership Project, which focuses on capacity building for municipalities, two leadership workshops were conducted in early October for 35 municipal Ward Committee members, two municipal officials and two officials from KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. These workshops were based on a number of prior meetings and discussions with the municipality on the significance of the ecological infrastructure in the uMngeni and uMvoti water catchment for addressing water security issues.
The poor quality and unavailability of water in the area did not come as news to the workshop participants, as most of them reported having already experienced reduced provision of potable water and likened their local streams to “flowing dump sites”. Concerns were raised that this has caused a disconnect between local people and their rivers, as the severe pollution means that they are now barely able to use them for domestic purposes. Another concern raised at the workshop was that the natural springs, which the community has traditionally relied to supply good quality water, are drying up.
The aim of the workshop was thus to empower the municipal participants by building an appreciation of the value of healthy catchments, by increasing their understanding of water issues and by providing them with tools to address these. Ultimately this will put them in a position to become committed and responsible custodians of their local catchment’s ecological infrastructure. The participants were strongly encouraged to take ownership of their natural resources, especially of the functioning ecosystems which provide the community with invaluable goods and services.
The workshop covered numerous important topics, such as developing an understanding of the ecological infrastructure specific to the uMngeni and uMvoti catchments; sustainable development on a municipality and catchment level; environmental rights and responsibilities in addressing water security issues; spatial planning; citizen science tools and environmental legislative tools.
The response to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. Many of the ward committee members had no previous experience of the topics covered, and were eager to pass this knowledge on to the broader community and to put what they had learnt into practice. The group also expressed enthusiasm for receiving additional WESSA-facilitated training on environmental issues, so that they could build their understanding of the catchment’s ecological infrastructure further and become more effective leaders in their communities.
One of the municipal officials in attendance was IDP coordinator Sbahle Ngubane, who said “The workshop was very significant in my discipline. I will apply the knowledge in IDP and SDF”.
WESSA is grateful to uMshwathi municipality for assisting with the coordination of the workshop and for providing the venue. WESSA, in partnership with WWF-SA, is also grateful to the Maas Maasen Fund for funding the project and making this important work possible.
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Image EI Training: uMshwathi Local Municipality Ward Committee member participants at the WESSA Ecological Infrastructure training