How droughts will affect South Africa's broader economy

2 weeks 1 day ago

Droughts have become more commonplace in South Africa in recent years. In the past two decades since 1990, 12 of those years were defined as drier years compared to only seven years in the previous 20 years.

The latest period included three consecutive years of drier conditions, between 2014 to 2016. In some regions, such as the Western Cape, the country’s second largest province in terms of economic contribution, the drought continued into 2017.

These droughts are associated with climate changethe effect of human behaviour on the planet’s temperature.

Over the past two years the Western Cape was forced to set strict water restrictions – including curbs on irrigation – as dam levels dropped to below 20%. This had a direct effect on agriculture and food production, as well as ripple effects across the country.

In the province more than R5 billion was lost to the economy, largely due to the drought. This matters for the country as a whole because the Western Cape contributes 22% to national agricultural GDP. And the deciduous fruit and wine industries, and increasingly the citrus industry, are key exports and contribute significantly to South Africa’s overall agri-economy.

The economic implications of all of these outcomes are dire. From 2015 to 2017 South Africa’s economic grew by a mere 1.1% average per annum, with the agricultural sector growing at a rate of less than 0.5%. That’s not enough to make a dent on the country’s biggest challenges, which include high rates of inequality, poverty as well as unemployment.

Western Cape as a case study

Tourism sector: The drought negatively affected the province’s tourism sector. Even though the impact hasn’t been quantified, the number of tourists visiting the province went down during the drought period. This was also reflected in the fact that year-on-year overnight guests in the region grew at a mere 1% from 2016 to 2017, compared with 7% a year earlier. Some hotels had bookings declining by between 10% and 15% in 2018, compared to 2017.

Tourism in Western Cape is estimated to employ about 300 000 people.

Food prices: the impact of drought on food prices was severe with staple food items such as maize increasing. This affected mostly poor households which spend relatively large portions of their income on food – as much as 34% of their total income.

Also, lower agricultural production has affected food supplies. This in turn could increase food prices and food insecurity.

Jobs: The Western Cape has the biggest agricultural workforce in South Africa – nearly a quarter of the country’s farm workers are employed in the region. And agriculture and agro-processing are responsible for 18% of employment opportunities in the province.

The drought has led to job losses in the province’s agriculture sector. The 2017 third quarterly labour force survey showed that approximately 25,000 jobs were lost from the agricultural sector nationally. More than 20 000 of these were lost in the Western Cape province. Many were associated with the drought.

Most farm workers are unlikely to get jobs elsewhere, which means that job losses will worsen poverty.

Impact on the fiscus

If the pattern of drought continues, it’s likely to affect the country’s financial standing too. This is for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the National Treasury will have to continue spending money on disaster relief, as opposed to other economic activities. This year, for example, the South African government may need close to R3 billion sought by farmers severely affected by the drought.

Future assistance could be in the form of helping build infrastructure like boreholes and supporting farmers who need to reduce stock.

Secondly, continuing droughts could force up the country’s import bill. Declining agricultural production could lead to shortages of some food items like maize, wheat and some protein sources such as meat and eggs. This could, in turn, force South Africa to import more.

Thirdly, a shortage of local produce could push up prices. This could affect food inflation and push up the consumer price index. Given that the South African Reserve Bank uses interest rates to control inflation, this could lead to higher interest rates which will affect the broader economy.

Climate change a reality

Climate change poses a threat to everyone. Governments, farmers and society in general need to take proactive steps to deal with the outcomes of changing weather patterns.

Over time, agricultural production will need to adapt to new methods and approaches. These may include the use of drought-resistant seed varieties, modern technologies to adapt and taking up more crop insurance. These approaches are readily available to farmers who have the resources. It’s the developing, smallholder and emerging farmers that remain at risk.

Governments can assist farmers by providing infrastructure support making new laws that support the conservation of resources. And government can provide financial support for the development of new technologies as well as seed varieties that are adaptable and can withstand severe weather patterns.

This requires better planning. In addition, government must work closely with the agricultural sector.

The Conversation

Mmatlou Kalaba receives funding from National Research Foundation (NRF). He is affiliated with the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) and teh Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA).

What a failed Johannesburg project tells us about mega cities in Africa

2 weeks 3 days ago
An artist's impression of the failed Modderfontein smart city in Johannesburg.

Six years ago a major development was announced in South Africa. Billed as a game changer, it was meant to alter the urban footprint of Johannesburg, Africa’s richest city, forever.

The Modderfontein New City project was launched amid much fanfare, expectation and media hype.

Zendai, a Chinese developer, bought a 1600-hectare site north-east of Johannesburg for the development, which it quickly dubbed as the “New York of Africa”. Early plans showed it was to include 55,000 housing units, 1,468,000 m2 of office space and all the necessary amenities for urban life in the form of a single large-scale urban district. The cost estimate was set at R84 billion.

The developers believed that Modderfontein could function as a global business hub and would become Johannesburg’s main commercial center, replacing Sandton. The project would also change Johannesburg’s international profile by strengthening relations with Asian corporate interests.

But, despite the release of futuristic computer-generated images which led to significant publicity for the project, it was never built. Instead, the land was eventually sold off. Another developer has since begun construction on a much more scaled down project, in the form of a gated-community style housing development.

Modderfontein has faded away from the public consciousness. The story of why it failed has never been adequately told in the media.

Our research, which took place over the course of several years, sought to understand the factors which led to the project’s demise. We also wanted to find out how Modderfontein’s failure relates to the broader African urban context.

We found that the project was hindered by conflicting visions between the developer and the City of Johannesburg. Moreover, unexpectedly low demand for both housing and office space meant the original plan for the project was incompatible with the city’s real estate market.

The project’s trajectory also shows how African “edge-city” developments, which are generally elite-driven and marketed as “eco-friendly” or “smart”, can be influenced by a strong local government with the means and willingness to shape development.

Conflicting interests

Zendai’s aspirations to produce a high-end, mixed-used development did not fit with the City of Johannesburg’s approach. Rather than a luxurious global hub, the city wanted a more inclusive development – one which reflected the principles outlined in its 2014 Spatial Development Framework.

At the heart of the framework is the desire to reshape a trend that saw capital leave the old central business district for affluent Sandton at the dawn of democracy in 1994. This was accompanied by an upsurge in securitised suburbs further north towards Pretoria, the country’s capital city.

These spatial trends were incompatible with the ideals of South Africa’s new democratic government and its strategy to mitigate the effects of apartheid-era planning. During apartheid, black people were prohibited from living in more affluent areas, which were reserved for the minority white population. Instead, they were forced into sprawling “townships” on the periphery of cities, far from work and economic opportunities.

To this end, the city demanded that Zendai include at least 5 000 affordable homes in its plans. It also wanted to ensure that the development was compatible with, and complemented, Johanneburg’s public transport system. The city was willing to contribute funding for the necessary infrastructure and inclusive housing.

Yet Zendai remained steadfast in its commitment to its vision, eventually deciding against fully integrating the city’s wishes into its planning application. This saw the city draw-out the planning process.

Meanwhile, problems were mounting for Zendai. The owner, Dai Zhikang, was eventually forced to sell his stake in the project to the China Orient Asset Management Company. Rather than continuing with the project, the asset managers sold the land to the company behind the new housing development on the site.

Smart cities in Africa

Over the last decade, a variety of developments like Modderfontein, including Eko-Atlantic in Nigeria, New Cairo in Egypt, and Konza Technology City in Kenya, have been touted by both public and private sectors as panaceas for Africa’s urban problems. The thinking is that as the developments are disconnected from the existing urban landscape, they won’t be burdened by crime or informality. However, these projects can take badly needed resources away from the marginalised areas of the city.

To make them more palatable to domestic and international audiences, the developments are usually marketed as “smart” or “eco-friendly”.

But these developments can fail at the point of implementation. This is because, as speculative projects, they generally don’t recognise the need to fit in with the wishes of the local authorities or adapt to the existing city. In the case of Modderfontein, the city government had the capability to push back against the developers and, in the end tried to shape the project to better fit Johannesburg’s urban realities.

The Conversation

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

The former Registrar of The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) resigns.

2 weeks 4 days ago

The former Registrar of The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) resigns.


04 March 2019 


Following investigations into her conduct while administratively heading the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP), we announce that Ms. Marella O’Reilly has tendered her resignation.

The former SACAP Registrar was, in late 2018, placed on suspension pending a full investigation into her conduct. Her suspension was communicated to stakeholders on 8th September 2018.  

“We can confirm today that Ms O’Reilly officially resigned on 18 February 2019 and her resignation was accepted by Council.”  SACAP President, Mrs. Letsabisa Shongwe said.

Ms O’Reilly’s resignation comes after the conclusion of the investigations into her conduct.

Council welcomes Ms. O’Reilly’s resignation as it now paves a clearer path for steaming ahead on SACAP’s mandate.

As we swiftly move on, SACAP assures you that work will carry on while under the administrative eye of Advocate Toto Fiduli, the Acting Registrar.

Luanda's New International Airport Undergoes Correction Works

2 weeks 4 days ago

Luanda — The construction works of the New Luanda International Airport will be submitted to engineering and functional corrections to adapt the structure to the standards of modernity, innovation and passenger comfort.

The corrections to the project, to be carried out up to the year 2022, should be headed by a technical commission yet to be indicated, in a process that includes revisions and corrections.

According to the transport minister, Ricardo de Abreu, who provided the information to the press on Thursday, the measure results from information contained in a memorandum on the state of execution of the project approved last Thursday by the Cabinet Council.

"We are talking about a project that began ten years ago, whose concession is also very old", said the government official referring to the construction work taking place in the Bom Jesus area (outskirts of Luanda) in the municipality of Icolo e Bengo, 30 kilometers off the capital city.

In October 2017, after a monitoring visit to the construction site by President João Lourenço, it was announced that the new airport should only start operating in 2019, a delay of two years compared to the previous forecast, justified with financial difficulties.

Meanwhile, the minister of Transport assured that there is a financial reserve with the Ministry of Finance to be used to push forward the correction works, which according to the minister are valued at more than five billion dollars.

The new Luanda International Airport will be able to receive up to 15 million passengers per year, ten million from the international traffic and five million from the national traffic.

Financial, technical and operational problems have conditioned the course of the contract and obliged the replacement of the contractor, with a guarantee of financing for the execution of the works.

Until last year, the project was being financed by funds from China.



First Session of the UN HABITAT Assembly

2 weeks 6 days ago
First Session of the UN HABITAT Assembly

The first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly will be held from 27-31 May 2019, at the headquarters of UN-Habitat in Nairobi.

The special theme for the UN-Habitat Assembly, as discussed during the twenty-first meeting of the Subcommittee on Policy and Programme of Work of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) held on 30 November 2018 and endorsed during the 71stRegular meeting of the CPR on 4 December 2018 is: “Innovation for Better Quality of Life in Cities and Communities”.  The CPR also endorsed the Sub theme as: “Accelerated implementation of the New Urban Agenda towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Monday, 27 May, 2019 to Friday, 31 May, 2019

Tsomo’s mystery water tankers

2 weeks 6 days ago
Tsomo’s mystery water tankers Municipality says it provides a water tanker but residents say they’ve never seen one

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Photo of unused pump
Tsomo residents say their water pump has been broken for years. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Residents of Mjulwa in Tsomo in the Eastern Cape say there has been no water in their communal taps since 2005. The municipality says has provided a water tanker, but the residents say they’ve never seen it.

Residents say they have to fetch water from the nearby Embhobheni river, or hire a truck to fetch water in Butterworth, which costs R1,000. The river is close to a dumping site, with used nappies lying a few metres from the water. The Embhobheni is also used by animals.

When GroundUp asked the Chris Hani District Municipality about this, spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the area had been provided with a water tanker.

But five residents interviewed by GroundUp said they had never seen a water tanker in their area.

Ward councillor Armon Mbotshane failed to show GroundUp the water tanker when requested to do so.

Resident Sabelo Lehlakane said even old people in the area had to walk long distances to get water, carrying 20-litre buckets. “Our river is close to the road. When it rains the oil and petrol from the tar road get washed into the river,” he said.

“I was born in this area. When we grew up the water situation was not this bad. We had a water pump and when it was broken we would go back to the river. But the drought was not this bad. The river was always full and even if you found an animal drinking you could chase it away and wait a few minutes for the water to be clean again,” said Lehlakane.

He said when the municipality installed taps, the water pump was still working.

“We continued using the water pump while waiting for taps to provide water. But four years ago the water pump was broken and it was never fixed, hence people had to go back to using water from the river,” he said.

Lehlakane said the matter had been raised many times in public meetings with the ward councillor, but nothing had been done. “I feel for people who cannot afford to buy water because they are forced to drink this water no matter how dirty it is,” said ​​Lehlakane.

He said when people held funerals they had to buy water. Hiring a truck to get water in town cost R1,000 and hiring a bakkie R500, said Lehlakane.

Kowa denied allegations that the taps have not been working for years. He said Mjulwa had two water schemes. “In December one pump experienced mechanical problems and we are attending to it.”

He told GroundUp on 6 February, that Chris Hani District Municipality “uses water tankers to cart water to the side with no water, until the pump is repaired”.

But residents are still waiting for the water tankers. Lehlakane said: “Tell them to come and show us because we have never seen them”.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


UK to Finance Tamale Airport, Bekwai Hospital, Kumasi Central Market Phase 2

3 weeks ago

The Government of the United Kingdom has pledged funds to undertake three major infrastructure projects in Ghana this year.

The Tamale Airport, the Bekwai hospital project and the Kumasi Central Market are all set to receive funding to either undergo major expansion, construction or facilitate the installation of essential equipment as part of the UK government's partnership agreements with the Government of Ghana.

The UK's Minister for Africa, Mrs. Harriet Baldwin, announced the funding support on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at the end of the second UK-Ghana Business Council (UKGBC) Meetings held in London, UK.

"We will be backing the modernization of Kumasi Central Market with a total of 80 million Euros in support of this major trading centre. It's visited by over 800,000 people every day and it will see upgrades of its electrical networks, its water supplies, its generators, its fire detection systems and its public transport.

"Second, we will be backing the expansion of Tamale Airport which will include the construction of a modern, new International terminal building. It's a $56 million US loan which will enable the airport's expansion to improve tourist access and promote economic growth as well as benefiting Hajj pilgrims with a new multi-purpose facility.

"And the third project we're backing is in completing Bekwai hospital. Led by the Eurofinsa Group and insurance firm Ellipse UK, UKEF (UK Export Finance)'s guarantee of a 20 million euro loan will support every aspect of the hospital's construction which will include 120 new beds, an Emergency Department, a Maternity Ward and an Operating Theatre", Mrs. Baldwin said.

The meetings, co-chaired by Mrs Baldwin and the Vice President of the Republic, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, brought together Ministers and other government officials from both countries as well as captains of industry to deliberate on ways to deepen business and other ties between the two countries.

The announcements, Mrs. Baldwin said, was "just a flavour of some of the amazing announcements that have come through as a result of this UK-Ghana Business Council meeting", adding, "it's something we're committed to doing with a six months frequency in terms of taking this agenda forward."

The overarching goal of the UKGBC is to match as closely as possible Ghana's needs with UK expertise, financing and private sector support. The London meetings explored new strategies and opportunities to enhance trade and investment between the two countries.

The UK-Ghana Business Council will meet again in Accra in October this year.



One Dead, Another Trapped in Abia Twin Building Collapse

3 weeks ago

Residents of Old Express, off Sameck junction by Faulks road in Aba, the commercial nerve of Abia State were yesterday thrown into mourning following the collapse of a three-storey building that killed one of its occupants.

The incident followed the collapse of another uncompleted three-storey building at Park road by East after a torrential rain that wrecked havocs in Aba and Umuahia, the Abia State capital.

While the incident at park road was attributed to use of inferior materials by the contractor, it was gathered that the building at Old Express collapsed into the ground as a result of persistent waterlog that weakened its foundation.



Six years and government house still not finished

3 weeks ago
Thembeka Mpete has been waiting since 2013 for a contractor to finish building her home

By Vincent Lali

Photo of a house with bare walls
Thembeka Mpete outside her unfinished home in Section SST, Khayelitsha. Photo: Vincent Lali

Thembeka Mpete has been waiting since 2013 for government to complete her house in Section SST, Khayelitsha. In the meantime, she has been living in a shack.

Mpete, who is 57, dismantled her original shack in March 2013 to make way for the RDP house. She moved to Blowy informal settlement nearby in the meantime. But her house has never been completed.

A fire in Blowy in October 2018 has left her with a shack made of salvaged, burnt zinc sheets riddled with holes. “In winter the shack becomes ice-cold and flooded,” she says.

A proper house would make a big difference to her life as Mpete struggles to walk and she has diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and arthritis.

“When I walk to the public toilets, I carry a chair and rest three times … because my legs ache,” she says.

She lives on a disability grant and tries to make extra cash selling umqombothi (home-brewed beer). Her children are unemployed.

“I have to set money aside to hire a charwoman to wash my clothes because arthritis prevents me from washing them myself,” she says.

Mpete supports her granddaughter in Grade 3 at Chumisa Primary School in Site B, Khayelitsha.

She says that after she complained in 2015 about her unfinished house, the City of Cape Town arranged for a builder to roof it. The house is in a terrible condition. It is without windows or doors. The rooms are filled with rubbish.

“Criminals have now turned my house into their home where they sleep and smoke tik,” she says. “I have been waiting for the house for almost six years and no one stands up for me.”

Andisiwe Shugu, who lives next door to Mpete’s unfinished house, said, “Wearing their full uniforms, school boys bunk classes and hang out in the house, buying alcohol and drinking it. Dagga smoke permeates my house when they smoke it … My neighbour says the boys keep her awake at night as they make a noise having drunken sex with girls.”

“We want the City of Cape Town to finish building the house or demolish it altogether because thugs use it as their hideout,” said Shugu.

Nomaxabiso Sishuba, a member of SST Neighbourhood Watch, said, “The boys cause trouble in our area as they fight among themselves and hit each other with stones.”

Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Councillor Malusi Booi said that the original contractor went into liquidation in 2016 and could not complete the houses. Booi said the Western Cape government had appointed another contractor to complete the house.

The City would contact Mpete within two weeks.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


Cape Town has a plan to manage its water. But there are big gaps

3 weeks 2 days ago
What lessons were learnt from Cape Town's "Day Zero"? Shutterstock

The City of Cape Town – and southwest Africa more generally – experienced its worst drought on record between 2015 and 2018. With fresh rains as well as careful water management, the city has now emerged from this environmental and economic emergency.

The final consequences of the drought might never be known for certain. This is because the effects on groundwater depletion or biodiversity loss may not appear until years after the event. But the economic impact of the drought is more easily identified. Over 30,000 jobs have been lost in the agricultural sector in the Western Cape region, caused by a 20% decrease in agricultural production.

There are other consequences too, such as the impact on the city’s international reputation, as well as residents’ and policymakers’ experiences of water restrictions and the threat of “Day Zero”.

So what are the lessons learnt?

The City of Cape Town has recently released a draft strategy for water supply and management which aims to ensure safe access to water and sanitation for all the city’s residents, efficient water use, diversified water sources and shared costs and benefits by 2040. This strategy has been strongly informed by events of the past three years and is a bold statement of intent. As such, it sets a benchmark for sustainable development in the city and the wider region. The strategy is aimed at increasing usable water availability and managing that water better. But some elements are missing.

An uncertain future

Missing parts of the strategy include the uncertainty of future trends in climate, economic activities, population growth, water demand and infrastructure investment needs. Increasing water availability is easy in theory because it is based on balancing supply to need. But this water needs to come from somewhere.

Rainfall is becoming ever more precarious, groundwater aquifers are depleted, and river and dam water is already allocated. Desalinisation is an option. But this is expensive and has unknown environmental impacts.

Another option is water redistribution. In the recent drought, water was diverted from the agriculture sector to supply the city. But this had ripple effects on farming communities and economies. This approach is probably no longer sustainable.

There is also the option of reducing water demand. The new draft strategy doesn’t specifically mention managing demand – it makes vague reference to the need to use water wisely. It may be that the memory of water restrictions is too recent to discuss in this document. But water management is not just about supplying water, it’s about changing hearts and minds. These take much longer to change. For some Capetonians, the drought is over and normal business is resumed. For others, the spectre of Day Zero still remains.

And the plan doesn’t indicate that lessons have been learnt. For example, an innovative Water Map used by the City of Cape Town was able to “name and shame” excessive water users, but some township users were exempt from restrictions while other wealthy users largely ignored the water restrictions because they could afford to pay the resulting fines.

This kind of behavioural analysis is important when it comes to equitable planning and water management, and provides a rich source of data for drought epidemiology – Cape Town knows more about how its residents use water than most cities.

Emerging from disaster

Over the next decades, it’s anticipated that southern Africa will experience both higher average annual temperatures, in particular in summer. It’s also expected to have more variable and somewhat lower rainfall. Collectively, these climatic changes will result in greater water insecurity, irrespective of any changes in population, water demand or capacity of water infrastructure.

A recent study shows that climate change has trebled drought risk in Cape Town. Future-proofing cities such as Cape Town to withstand water insecurity and drought conditions cannot be done without managing water infrastructure better. In South Africa, 56% of waste water treatment plants are not fully operational. This limits its ability to deliver on the future promises outlined in the City of Cape Town strategy document.

Water restrictions in Cape Town have eased over recent months. But persistent drought still exists elsewhere in the region, in small town rural communities where there’s a lack of water infrastructure, lack of access to dam water supplies and depleting aquifers. Addressing the future water problem for Cape Town should not be done at the expense of the wider region, and must be formulated as a national-scale strategy. This should be a government priority.

The Conversation

Jasper Knight does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

First ever global scientific eating plan forgets the world's poor

3 weeks 2 days ago
The Mediterranean diet. Foxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock

A team of 37 world-leading scientists from 16 countries have just released the world’s first ever scientific eating plan. The “planetary health diet” is designed to be healthier for people and more environmentally friendly.

The team warns that the way we eat now threatens both our health and the long-term survival of the planet. They say the current food system dangerously overproduces greenhouse gases, misuses fertiliser, and causes large-scale food wastage and massive land degradation.

Their solution is to shift to a diet that transforms this damaging food system. This diet would sustainably feed up to 10 billion people by 2050 and avert about 11 million premature adult deaths a year due to cardiovascular disease and other non-communicable diseases.

The diet sounds like a silver bullet, but we have found it to be slightly problematic. It doesn’t recognise the enormous differences across the world when it comes to food consumption and production systems.

It suggests we need less livestock in the world because they damage the environment and produce health-threatening foods – like meat. To most people in developed countries, livestock are the source of neatly packaged foods, readily available in the supermarket. To one billion people in developing countries, livestock are much, much more. They are a source of much-needed livelihoods, incomes, jobs, savings, and nutrition. In some environments, fruits and vegetables may be difficult to grow, and food security depends strongly on animal-source produce.

The report doesn’t deny any of this: it’s simply rather quiet on it. This could easily lend itself to misinterpretation and push the international development community, donors and governments to reduce investments on increasing access and affordability of animal source foods in countries where positive contributions of these products remain essential for health and life.

A healthy diet?

The authors describe what they call a “universal healthy reference diet” as an alternative to standard current diets which they qualify as imbalanced as reliant on red meat and sugar.

Drawing on studies, mostly conducted in middle and upper income countries, they propose a diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils – a diet that’s not very different from the so-called Mediterranean diet. It includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, but little to no red meat, added sugar, refined grains or starchy vegetables, and only a small amount of dairy.

One of the issues that has provoked the most debate about the report is whether the scientific evidence base regarding what constitutes a “healthy diet” is robust enough. Most of the evidence it cites regarding healthy diets comes from observational studies – these can’t prove a causal link between the consumption of specific products, like red meat, and health issues, like heart disease.

Needs of poor

The report also claims that its recommendations are flexible enough to be tailored to the preferences and cultures of different populations, as well as to their specific livelihoods.

But at no point do the authors explain how the world’s less well-off – who tend to subsist on poor quality starches and who have limited access to milk, meat, eggs, fish – could follow their recommendations.

Many rural households, for example, have limited access to markets and generally depend on rain-fed agriculture for their foods. These families consume most of their calories from staple crops such as maize or manioc, foods that lack the variety of nutrients necessary for health and well-being. Even if they produce other foods such as eggs, dairy, fish from aquaculture, or cash crops such as vegetables or fruits, they will likely sell these foods to support other needs like school fees or health care costs. And many people who live in urban areas in emerging and developing economies face similar difficulties affording a healthy diet.

Sub-Saharan Africa is mentioned a few times in the report. The report notes that because carbohydrate intake is high in many parts of the continent,

the promotion of animal source foods, including livestock products, can improve dietary quality, micronutrient intake, nutrient status and overall health.

But the report doesn’t expand on these issues and many, in Africa and Asia, need to increase rather than decrease their consumption of animal source foods.

Divisive report

Another criticism is that much of the report focuses on adult diets, yet about one in four people in the world are children less than 15 years old. As they grow and develop they have very different nutritional needs to adults.

The report has a short section that touches on the importance of breastfeeding for infants and iron for adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women but does not fully address nutrition in these populations or in other phases of childhood.

By touting diets low in meat or dairy, it could even be harmful as animal source foods are important and provide nutrients that support rapid growth and immune protection. School-age children, in particular, require zinc, iron, iodine, vitamin A, B12, among others from animal source foods for brain development and health.

The EAT-Lancet report has done an important job in bringing global attention to the question of how to sustainably feed the world’s growing population. But now it needs to take the next step and fully incorporate the perspectives of the poorer people in developing and emerging economies and of the vast emerging global middle classes.

The Conversation

Silvia Alonso Alvarez works for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Her research is supported by funding from various donors including the USAID, UK's DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Isabelle Baltenweck works for the International Livestock Research Institute, that conducts research on livestock systems in Developing Countries, 'better lives through livestock. She has received funding from USAID and BMGF on livestock related topics.

Lora Iannotti receives funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She has a joint appointment with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Paula Dominguez-Salas works for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Her research is supported by funding from DFID and the Gates Foundation.

Damning report on Eskom air pollution

3 weeks 3 days ago
Coal-fired plants breached legal emission levels 3,200 times in 21 months

By John Yeld

Photo of a power station
Eskom’s Lethabo power station in the Free State. Photo: Simisa Bearbeitung (Auschnitt, Farben): Pechristener via <a href="">Wikimedia </a>

Over a period of 21 months, Eskom’s coal-fired power plants belched pollutants that exceeded South Africa’s already weak air quality standards close to 3,200 times, sometimes by as much as 15 times the legal limit.

The excessive emissions include particulate matter (PM), sulphur oxides (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

The figures – a conservative estimate drawn from the power utility’s own monthly air quality reports, as submitted to environmental authorities – show that nearly all its coal-fired plants are possibly operating illegally and that Eskom’s pollution control measures are not working. Many of the excessive emissions were frequent at particular plants.

Eskom acknowledges there are periods when statutory emission levels are exceeded. However, it argues, this does not constitute illegal non-compliance. Excessive emissions often arise from plant start-up, shut-down or “upset conditions”, which are­ unplanned, unexpected or sudden incidents. A grace period of 48 to 72 hours is allowed for this in terms of its Atmospheric Emission Licenses (AEL).

Eskom denies that there have been thousands of emission standard violations and says the count is “significantly overstated” because of “a number of errors”.

The new findings were made by US coal plant expert Dr Ranajit Sahu, who was commissioned by the Life After Coal campaign, a joint campaign by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, groundWork, and the Centre for Environmental Rights. The campaign is dedicated to: “Discouraging investment in new coal-fired power stations and mines; accelerating the retirement of South Africa’s coal infrastructure; and enabling a just transition to renewable energy systems for the people”.

In his report, Eskom Power Station Exceedances of Applicable Atmospheric Emission License Limit Values for PM, SO2 & NOx During April 2016 to December 2017, Sahu explains that he reviewed monthly monitoring reports from 14 of Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power stations over 21-months. (Kusile was excluded from the analysis as the power plant only came on-line in August 2017.)

“My conclusions are conservative and underestimate the true scope of the problem because I did not have access to clear and comprehensive data,” writes Sahu. “Because the applicable limits in the Atmospheric Emissions Licences (AEL) are quite lax compared to those recommended by the World Bank Group, or those adopted by China, for example, having any excessive emissions of the AEL limits is very troubling.”

“Even perfect compliance with AEL limits allows for discharges of pollution at unhealthy levels,” writes Sahu. He notes also that these excessive emissions are even more troubling since most of these plants are located in areas that are already significantly polluted, such as the Mpumalanga Highveld Priority Area.

Sahu also observed that he did not see evidence that the power station operators were using the monthly reports to identify the cause of the high pollution levels in order to take mitigating action.

The Life After Coal campaign said that if Eskom could not comply with South Africa’s already-weak minimum emission standards, the offending power stations should be decommissioned “and an inclusive, transparent, and just transition plan put in place to support workers and their families”.

Responding to the report, Eskom said it “will evaluate the deficiencies picked up by Dr Sahu and address these to ensure that reported information is clear, accurate and in line with the requirements of the licensing authorities”.

It has been calculated that air pollution from coal-fired power stations is costing the country more than R33 billion a year in health-related costs, and that the human rights of millions of South Africans are being violated with at least 2,200 people a year dying prematurely from air pollution-related illnesses like bronchitis and asthma.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Wastewater audit missing as countrywide water shortage looms

3 weeks 3 days ago
After reports were sent to cabinet, water test results have not been released for five years

By Steve Kretzmann

Photo of a coast
Green-brown water flows directly from the Cape Flats sewage works into False Bay at Strandfontein and remains trapped in the surf zone. The last full national Green Drop Report of 2011 scored the quality of this treated water at 20%. Without independent testing, it is very difficult for the public to find out if it has since improved. On the day this photograph was taken, 23 February 2018, the sewage smell of the water remained strong despite a breeze coming in from the sea. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN

A countrywide water shortage is a decade away unless urgent action is taken to rehabilitate and preserve our rivers and catchment areas, fix and maintain crumbling infrastructure, and implement water re-use.

Without intervention, South Africa faces a deficit of about 3,000 billion litres of water per year by 2030 the Department of Water and Sanitation told a ministerial interactive session on transformation in Boksburg on 15 February.

That is three times more than South Africa’s total current household usage. At 237 litres per day, which is what the DWS states is average household use, the 14.5 million households (2011 census figure) use over 1,250 billion litres per year. To this must be added agricultural, industrial and business use.

The new National Water and Sanitation Master Plan to ensure water security was presented by deputy director-general Trevor Balzar. Along with co-ordinating budgeting, planning, and implementation across departments and spheres of governments, the DWS announced its intention to:

  • Set up a unit to assist municipalities with their water and sanitation;

  • Start a programme to use alternative water sources such as desalination and recycling;

  • Form a team to fix the water infrastructure.

However, the department’s Green Drop Report, which was welcomed by scientists as a way to improve wastewater management, was not mentioned in the department’s press release, nor in the presentation of the master plan.

But the Green Drop Report, which was introduced in 2009 as an annual audit of the country’s 824 sewage works, has not been published in any form since 2013. How functional these wastewater treatment works are is an indicator of the health of our groundwater, rivers, vleis, estuaries and, where they release into the ocean, our coast.

The last Green Drop Report indicated that over four million litres of untreated or inadequately treated sewage was flowing into our rivers every day, according to Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation member Leonard Basson. He suspects the situation has got worse in the intervening years.

The 2013 report is only available as an executive summary that shows provincial, and not municipal performance. The last full Green Drop Report that drills down into the waste treatment plants managed by every municipality dates back to 2011.

It appears the five-year gap in information is due to a lack of capacity in a department that until recently was run by Nomvula Mokonyane, who was accused in testimony at the Zondo commission, of receiving Bosasa largesse. But there is also a strong indication that withholding the Green Drop was a political decision by Cabinet.

Army mops up sewage crisis

In the 2013 Green Drop Report summary, just under half (49.6%) of treatment plants achieved a score of 50% or less, and almost a third (30.1%) were in a critical state. Some have since failed altogether.

Balzar’s presentation says that about 56% of municipal treatment plants are now in a poor or critical condition and need urgent rehabilitation, with some 11% completely dysfunctional. This, states the DWS, “is having a significantly detrimental impact on the environment and driving up the cost of water treatment”.

The dysfunction of treatment plants in the Emfuleni municipality, from which raw sewage has been flowing into the Vaal for years, according to Save the Vaal chairperson Malcolm Plant late last year, resulted in the SANDF deploying technical teams to help restore the crumbling infrastructure.

The polluted Vaal River is a popular recreation getaway for Johannesburg residents and a source of irrigation for agriculture. Fortunately, Emfuleni is downstream from the Vaal Dam, which supplies drinking water to Gauteng.

But according to the chair of the portfolio committee on water and sanitation, Lulu Johnson (ANC), the Hartebeesport Dam, which provides drinking water to Brits, has had raw sewage flowing into it due to breakdowns at the Madibeng municipal treatment works. The dam has been severely polluted for decades due to treatment plant failures in its catchment area, despite almost R1 billion spent on trying to clean it up.

Meanwhile, infrastructure failures, combined with drought, have led to severe water shortages in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, where taps run dry for days and residents have to line up to fill containers from water trucks.

All not necessarily well in the Western Cape

The Western Cape, although it achieved the top provincial Green Drop score (84.5% in 2013), had problems with its sewage plants. Some of them were in Cape Town.

The 2011 report revealed that the Cape Flats sewage works in Strandfontein scored only 20% for wastewater quality compliance eight years ago. Whether the Cape Flats sewage works has improved would be of interest to the many Capetonians who swim, fish and surf at Muizenberg and other close-by beaches. Water treated at this plant flows into False Bay.

Similarly, Cape Town’s Scottsdene plant scored 20% for wastewater quality compliance in 2011. Its treated wastewater runs into a series of dams used to irrigate Stellenbosch vegetable farms and vineyards.

One of the worst provincial performers was Cape Agulhas municipality with an overall score of 34%. The municipality’s sewage works at Struisbaai received zero for wastewater quality and its sewage works in Napier scored only 15%.

Oversight falls to civil society

Municipalities may assure residents all is now well, but the gap in information from a separate state body that has the mandate to do so means independent testing of inland and coastal water quality falls to civil society and academic researchers.

Senior Professor Leslie Petrik at the University of Western Cape’s Chemistry Department has raised concerns over pollution on the Atlantic seaboard where marine sewage outfalls are situated.

Dr Jo Barnes, a retired University of Stellenbosch epidemiologist, is looking at the state of the Kuils River and she doesn’t take the City’s statements that all is well at the Zandvliet wastewater plant for granted. But such oversight is ad-hoc and has no legislative weight.

Political censorship

One reason for the failure of the DWS to produce Green Drop reports, which are currently the only way to keep track of the health of the country’s water bodies, might be because the information they contain is politically embarrassing. The DA-run Western Cape has consistently achieved the highest score, despite having its own pockets of failure, and Gauteng, which is also now in DA hands, came second.

Responding to questions from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation in September last year, the DWS deputy director-general of regulation, Anil Singh, said the 2013 Green Drop report had “huge policy implications”.

The transcript of the meeting recorded by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group records Singh as going on to say: “A decision had been made that the reports needed to be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration. The reports had been considered. That was why there had been a non-release of the reports.”

Singh is referring to the full 2013 reports, and there is mention in portfolio committee meetings of a 2016 Green Drop Report, which remains hidden.

Johnson did not want to be drawn on the clear political inference of Singh’s statement, but said there is “a serious issue of capacity in DWS”.

The lack of capacity meant that not only was no water quality audit produced, but the department was not able to hold polluters accountable, whether they be state or private institutions.

Johnson said the DWS could not plan effectively when it did not know the quality of the country’s water, particularly given the status of South Africa’s rivers. In Parliament, he said it was “no wonder” there was a crisis at the Vaal River.

No response was forthcoming from DWS.

This article was written for GroundUp by West Cape News.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Education department is “showing us the middle finger”

3 weeks 3 days ago
Parents protest about the dilapidated state of three Uitenhage schools

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

Photo of incomplete classroom builidng
Tall grass is growing in what should have been a finished classroom at Winterberg Primary School in Uitenhage. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Hundreds of parents and their supporters marched through Uitenhage on Thursday to protest the conditions at three schools: Gamble Street Secondary School, Winterberg Primary and Jubilee Park Primary.

The parents were supported by the Social Revolutionary Workers Party, the EFF, the United Front of the Eastern Cape, and the National, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU).

Parents said they want the three crumbling schools, which one of them described as “prisons”, to be replaced with brand-new schools.

Denzil Rossouw, chairperson of the Schools Governing Body at Winterberg Primary, said, “Last year, the thugs in the area broke into our school at least nine times … There are 12 teachers who are struggling to cope with 535 learners.”

Rossouw said seven classrooms which burned to the ground decades ago were never rebuilt. “Last year, the Department of Education appointed a company to rebuild the seven classrooms, allocating an amount of R3.5 million … Last week, the district official told us there was now no money to finish the project.”

Chairperson of Jubilee Park Primary School governing board Charlene Primo said the school to house 1,300 learners had been under construction since 2014. But the R82-million project is on hold because the department says it has no money.

Lessons are currently held in prefabricated classrooms and on a platoon basis. “Today we have a morning and afternoon shift at this school. Learners doing grade R to grade 3 attend classes from 8am to 12pm. The other learners from grade 4 to grade 7, attend classes from 12pm to 4pm,” said Primo.

Chairperson of Gamble Street Secondary School governing body Keith Potgieter said, “Our school is over 100 years old and it’s crumbing. The project to rebuild it started in 2012 and it had to be stopped after a few months.”

The protesters refused to hand over their memorandum to local district official Viwe Madonci. “We want the MEC and not a district official … What they are doing is showing us the middle finger,” said protest leader Mgcini Mejane.

Chairperson of Gamble Street Secondary School governing body Keith Potgieter says the school is over 100 years old and “it’s crumbing”. He said renovations came to a halt in 2012 as the education department says it has no money. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Published originally on GroundUp .

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RDP house on sale for R1.7 million

3 weeks 3 days ago
Risky purchase says property consultant

By GroundUp correspondent

Photo of a house
This house in overcrowded Dunoon is on sale for R1,728,000. Photo supplied

A former RDP house, upgraded to a double-storey and expanded to 15 rentable rooms in Dunoon, Cape Town, has been listed for sale on a popular property website with an asking price of over R1.7 million.

Some rooms have cracks and peeling paint and it is squeezed onto a 147m² site, but the house was listed on 14 December for R 1,728,000. It has six bathrooms, eight rooms upstairs, and seven at ground level. The property includes a shop with a trader who pays R6,000 per month. Potential monthly income through rent is estimated at R35,000. On the sales price, monthly mortgage repayments would be R16,963 (at a rate of 10.25% over 20 years, with no deposit).

Converting RDP houses into many roomed dwellings for rent has become a hot business in Dunoon, an area characterised by overcrowding and poor socio-economic conditions. Raw sewage flows in some streets and between houses. Blockages and waste overflows are part of daily life in Dunoon.

According to the real estate website, properties sold in Dunoon include one for R180,000 in December, and last month a home fetched R280,000.

GroundUp found no approved building plans for the conversion of the house for sale, but it does have electrical and plumbing certification.

Gregory Brooks of Brooks & Michaels Property Consultants said it would be a risky purchase for this reason. “What makes me nervous is the website has recorded 23 property sales in the area and the average price is R279,000. [This building] has the highest price that I can see and that is far above the average price.”

He said any offer should be subject to the approved plans.

City Mayco member for Spatial Planning and Environment Marian Nieuwoudt said, “Since February 2018, a process of law enforcement started [looking at the Dunoon home conversions]. Although the initial results are not satisfactory, the City will pursue regulating all buildings in future.”

Nieuwoudt said the formal trading of properties requires that a building occupation certificate be supplied by the seller of the property. The City administration has not received a request for the issuing of an occupation certificate in respect of the property in question,” she said.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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IKEA launches ÖVERALLT collection during Design Indaba Festival

3 weeks 3 days ago
IKEA teamed up with a group of designers, architects, artists and creatives from five African countries to launch the limited-edition ÖVERALLT collection at Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town.

The ÖVERALLT easy chair was designed by Issa Diabaté and Kevin Gouriou.

Two years ago, IKEA teamed up with a group of designers, architects, artists and creatives from five African countries to collaborate around modern urban rituals and the importance they play in the home. The result is the limited-edition collection ÖVERALLT, which was launched on 27 February 2019 at the place where it all started – Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town.

The journey of ÖVERALLT started with IKEA wanting to learn more about the contemporary African design scene and the creative explosion that can be seen in several cities around Africa. Ten designers, all connected to the South African multi-faceted platform Design Indaba and its network, teamed up with five IKEA designers.

The starting point was to explore modern urban rituals connected to socializing around food, indoor and outdoor living, the rituals around expressing identity and sustainability. From there, the design and development process has resulted in a collection of products that is all about building bridges and discovering the “urban living room” together with others.

IKEA teamed up with a group of designers, architects, artists and creatives from five African countries to launch the limited-edition ÖVERALLT collection at Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town.

The ÖVERALLT bench was designed by Naeem Biviji and Bethan Rayner and Mikael Axelsson.

“With ÖVERALLT, we want to encourage and trigger people to come together and eat, share stories, be creative and spend time with one another. And, thanks to the merging of creatives and all the good discussions we’ve had along the way, each design has a way of supporting that. ÖVERALLT is like a palette of socializing tools,” says James Futcher, Creative Leader at IKEA.

The collection, which will be available in all IKEA markets in May 2019, includes larger pieces of furniture, tableware, textiles, and a sustainable tote bag, amongst others. The collection was showcased for the first time during Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town.

The IKEA collection ÖVERALLT has been designed by:

  • Issa Diabaté
  • Selly Raby Kane
  • Naeem Biviji and Bethan Rayner
  • Bibi Seck
  • Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad
  • Renee Rossouw
  • Sindiso Khumalo
  • Laduma Ngxokolo
  • Mikael Axelsson
  • Ina Vuorivirta
  • Kevin Gouriou
  • Johanna Jelinek
  • Hanna Dalrot
IKEA teamed up with a group of designers, architects, artists and creatives from five African countries to launch the limited-edition ÖVERALLT collection at Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town.

The ÖVERALLT bag was designed by Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad and Hanna Dalrot.

IKEA teamed up with a group of designers, architects, artists and creatives from five African countries to launch the limited-edition ÖVERALLT collection at Design Indaba Festival in Cape Town.

The ÖVERALLT basket was designed by Selly Raby Kane and Ina Vuorivirta.

The post IKEA launches ÖVERALLT collection during Design Indaba Festival appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

How environmental health workers can help climate change mitigation

3 weeks 4 days ago
Environmental health practitioners promote health, safety and well-being. Shutterstock

All the evidence tells us that the world’s changing climate will affect more than the environment. It will have serious consequences for people’s health too.

Southern Africa is in the eye of the climate change storm. In the next 80 years it’s likely to experience an increase in temperature that exceeds the global average. But little is known about whether vulnerable groups in the region are equipped to deal with these changes and the resulting health problems.

One of the ways they can be assisted, in South Africa at least, is through the work of environmental health practitioners. There are 3 833 practitioners registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa across the country. They operate at the interface between government and communities, dealing with environmental safety and community health in local government districts.

Environmental health practitioners work in the areas of water quality, food control, waste management, health surveillance of premises, surveillance and prevention of communicable diseases, vector control (methods to limit or eradicate disease pathogens transmitted via mammals, birds, insects or other arthropods) and environmental pollution control. They spend time in communities doing environmental monitoring, disease surveillance (for example during rabies outbreaks) as well as awareness and educational campaigns.

In 2011, the Conference of the Parties (COP)-17 meeting hosted in South Africa highlighted the importance of involving environmental health and health care practitioners in helping communities increase their capacity to respond to the impact of climate change. Local legislation echoes this. But in reality, this isn’t happening.

Our study looked at the role that environmental health practitioners play in helping communities adapt to climate change. The participants acknowledged that climate change poses a serious threat to public health. But they said there was no clarity on what their role should be in preventing adverse risks from a changing climate.

From these findings we concluded that implementing climate change adaptation plans, and considering appropriate climate services, could become part of environmental health practitioners’ work. Practitioners should receive formal training on climate change.

The research

The health practitioners we spoke to identified a number of areas in which they could help communities guard their health in the face of a changing climate. These included encouraging tree planting and vegetable gardening, improving storm water drainage systems, strengthening climate and health research programmes and developing community early warning systems.

Two-thirds of the 48 respondents said their role in this work should be supportive, rather than leading. And 42% believed that climate change adaptation action was best dealt with at a global level. This suggests that the practitioners may not yet have identified or clarified their role in climate change adaptation among local communities, where the effects are felt most.

This may be because when it comes to climate change there’s a lack of information on community level policy, regulations and standards, budgetary matters, research, training and education.

Some municipalities did have climate change, health strategies and policies in place. These included the City of Cape Town and eThekwini (Durban) municipalities. But human capacity and financial constraints were identified as challenges to educating and encouraging practitioners to advocate for climate change health and adaptation practices.

What needs to be done

There needs to be a debate about the role that environmental health practitioners can play to help communities manage climate threats. Resources have to be made available to support these efforts.

There are examples of where this has happened successfully. The city of Rustenburg in the North West province, in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council, is in the process of developing a Heat and Health Plan for its citizens.

The effort was prompted by Rustenburg being declared as a vulnerable location in 2016 after about 40 people died during a single heatwave. The climate and health adaptation measures, which were suggested by stakeholders during a consultative workshop in Rustenburg, echo those mentioned in our study.

The establishment of an iDEWS (infectious Diseases Early Warning System) Bureau to predict malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia in Limpopo province is another success story.

As climate change takes hold, environmental health practitioners may have an important role to play in ensuring that the environments – especially built environments – in which people live are fit to promote health, safety and well-being. This should be a national priority to ensure that their role is clarified.

The Conversation

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


1 month ago

Dirk Meyer, Corobrik’s Managing Director commented on the excellent standard of entries for this year’s awards: “Finalists have incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries for this year’s event to be held on the 7th May in Johannesburg.”

Each of the regional winners has been judged top of their tertiary institution and will compete against each other at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.   The winner to be announced on the evening of the 7th May 2019 will receive a prize of R70 000.

Nelson Mandela University
The finalists for this year’s Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries.

Riaan Huiskens of NMU (PE)

Winner: Riaan Huiskens

Thesis title “The design of a 3D printing facility in Central, Port Elizabeth.

High-tech architecture is moving towards a paradigm shift with the development and incorporation of digital fabrication technology. This interest is extended into the discussion of recycling existing infrastructure. In this treatise, a topic which ties into both the heritage and ecological discourse. It recognises the significance of historical urban elements and the finite quality of heritage resources within the city.

A historical building used as a host for the design of a 3D printing facility invites a dialogue between architecture of the old and the expression of the new. The Premier Mill Building is identified as an historical urban artefact and the programme complements the historical background of the building, which was a granary. The primary architectural exploration focuses on the possibilities offered by 3D printing in the making and expression of architecture. The nature of the facility organises function before sign. Meaning the initial architecture lies in the systematic operations of the facility as a place of digital fabrication. Therefore, it focuses on successfully incorporating existing infrastructure as functioning components to the system. Secondly the building is a sign of its function, a visual opportunity for a new architecture to reflect the nature of the facility.

Tshwane University of Technology
The finalists for this year’s Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries.

Ruan Jansen van Rensburg of TUT

Winner: Ruan Jansen van Rensburg

Thesis title: The design of an innovation Farm in Mamelodi

The project proposes an innovation farm adjacent to the Eerste Fabrieke train station in Mamelodi in an attempt to contribute responsibly to the dilapidated socio-economic structures and provide the community with educational platforms to strengthen self-sufficiency while contributing to micro-economies in the area.

The investigation deals with two core ideas and the Innovation farm mediates between them. On the one side, the project investigates Mamelodi, specifically Eerste fabrieke station and its surrounding neighbourhoods as experimental ground for this study, and on the other side, the positive attributes of Cannabis plants specifically cannabis sativa (Industrial hemp), as an accessible and affordable alternative resource, predominantly as a construction material in an underdeveloped context.

Poor social structures, infrastructure and living conditions overshadow the cultural vibrancy of local design, entrepreneurship and innovation in the area and suggest an opportunity for architectural intervention to promote local agriculture and socio-economic upliftment. The programmes within the innovation farm becomes interactive and accessible to the surrounding community and public through a series of platforms which showcases the applications of hemp through social spaces and the tectonics of the building. Communal manufacturing, production, trading and educational facilities integrate the building with its surrounding urban fabric and aim to establish a sense of ownership and acknowledgement from stakeholders within the community.

University of Cape Town
The finalists for this year’s Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries.

Anthony Whitaker of UCT

Winner: Anthony Whitaker

Title of Thesis: Builders, Agriculturalists, and Interpreters — architecture by Narration

The project is based on fieldwork research and observations of social practices in Gugulethu, Cape Town. Three architectural approaches make up the project – a building system (Part1: Proto-town), that system as building (Part 2: Proto-type), and that building system as urban model (Part 3: Proto-town).

The first considers buildability and materiality. A proposal for a replicable building system found and resolved in the practice of autonomous building, characteristic of under-resourced and marginalized neighbourhoods in South African cities – the Proto-Logue. The Proto-Logue is a replicable building system that aims to simplify the planning and building process of construction, enabling non-experts to build and to have a controlling influence over the design process. Using basic products of industry and skills that are commonly known and understood, it responds to the people who build them and is intended to be easily altered.

The Proto-Type is a small timber structure hosted to a 6m ISO shipping container.  Its construction involves simple timber detailing adapted from the Proto-Logue. The Proto-Type is conceived as a multi-use ancillary programme to the farm’s activities; a container makes storing equipment safe and easy, a raised floor offers much-needed space for admin related activity. The adjacent meeting space opens towards the educational crops. It is a place for recreational activities and educational workshops.

The third begins to project new possibilities informed by the previous two parts. The defunct King David Country Club, North of Gugulethu, is appropriated and imagined as a Proto-Town. A proposal for an urban model generated by the architectural interpretation of autonomous building and subsistence practices as explored in Part 1 and 2.

The communal hall is the largest and most prominent structure of all in the Proto-town. Its construction involves the most elaborate technologies of all structures. The hall is conceived as being built first, it will accommodate a range of programmes in a sequence of phases. First, a timber workshop and yard for the construction phase of homes and public spaces; a place to build and learn how to build from each other. Once construction of the town progresses the demand for the workshops will be reduced to the necessary maintenance workshops. These structures are designed to then comfortably hold a gathering of 100+ users, be a place for lectures, meetings, large dinners, provide shelter and sense of place, care and welcome.

University of the Free State
The finalists for this year’s Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries.

Samuel Pellissier of UFS

Winner: Samuel Pellissier

Lamu: An Architectural Investigation of Time and Place

While touring eastern Africa on a bicycle in early 2017, we came across an ancient Swahili port city called Lamu. This World Heritage site resonates with the rhythms of time, and the rich culture of its people identifies the place. This determined the cornerstones of this thesis as Time and Place.

As an outsider, I became a student of the ways of Lamu, the religion, the lifestyle and the culture, with specific interest in the traditional methods of Dhow-building and donkey transportation. The aim was to design an architectural response that accommodates these methods, while respecting the cultural heritage.

The remote location of Lamu provided practical challenges which were resolved by using building techniques and materials, known to the island, in a newly imagined way that aims to inspire, rather than prescribe.

The project aspired to portray something similar to Breyten Breytenbach’s theory of the “Middle world”, an in-between place that accommodates the dweller where he might find himself between land and sea.

The designed building consists of dry-docks for Dhow repairs and building, a workshop for finer crafts such as sail making and furniture weaving, and a sanctuary for donkeys to be looked after. So this thesis became a place where the dweller, the Dhow and the donkey can come to find repairs and sanctuary.

University of Johannesburg

Winner: Elao Martin

Title of Thesis: Reimagining Kitintale’s landscape through clay brick making

Clay brick making in Kampala, Uganda, is one of many activities that have negatively affected wetlands’ ecosystems. An age old way of making; the process has created visible scars in the wetlands landscape through the mining of clay soil as miners clear large areas of land and vegetation for the raw materials used to make the bricks, leaving the soil barren, and the wetland unable to work as a carbon sink and water filter, or provide natural resources used for subsistence.

The radical design proposition is for the digging of clay soil for the brick making process, to create an edge or buffer between the informal settlement of Kitintale, and the wetland.  This dug edge in the landscape will prevent the informal settlement from encroaching further into the wetland. As this protective edge of the wetland will inevitably transverse many human activities in the wetland such as farming, the project also explores ways that the process of clay brick making and its devices, can be colonized, and appropriated by these activities to create a sustainable landscape, long after the clay brick makers have left.

Through seasonal flooding, and after the water has subsided, the silt left behind will encourage farming activity to take up the area excavated and the wetland can regenerate itself, while maintain the terraced landscape that acts as a protective edge.

University of Kwa Zulu-Natal

Winner: Shuaib Bayat

Title of Thesis: Exploring solar energy design systems in peri-urban settlements for responsive architecture:  Towards the design of a multipurpose upcycling skills centre in Cato Manor.

Presently, cities are contested with escalating global and socio-challenges in peri-urban settlements. However, this places an emphasis on individuals to incorporate sustainable development approaches within their city’s government’s structural model. Together with environmental concerns, sustainable development approaches also includes the strategies to improve socio-economic issues as well. South African cities have adopted the burden of the apartheid city dominance, as the spatial segregation sill reflects presently. Since the South African post-apartheid governance, the current approaches implemented towards the city’s development has only aggravated the issues adding towards the inefficiency of cities. Within the context of the urban fabric, cities are filled with numerous socio-economic inequalities, prevent the accessibility of basics services for the marginalized communities.

The thesis investigates the possibility of creating an architectural model for developing a solar energy harvested upcycling centre which can contribute to the concept of Liveable Urbanism as well as to empower insurgent communities towards the energy deficient, socio-economic and waste pollution challenges in Peri-Urban settlements, such as the Cato Manor District. Sustainable development is the primary strategy towards Liveable Urbanism, where it is understood as a process which involves leading a society on a development pathway that is social, economic and environmentally sustainable for self-sustenance. An essential element of sustainable development is reducing vulnerability, caused by contextual conditions and multiple stressors. This thesis will further examine how socio-economic factors shape the vulnerability of the context in the Cato Manor District.

University of Pretoria

Winner: Ferdinand le Grange

Title of Thesis: Prospect Portal: A Layered Landscape

The intention of the project was to question the seemingly inevitable fate of industrial heritage sites in Johannesburg— pollution and eventual erasure. It did so through exploring the potential re-use, regeneration and future prospects of the Village Main No. 1 Shaft site in Johannesburg.

This led to an investigation into the role of regenerative layering as an architectural strategy for dealing with threatened industrial heritage and polluted landscapes.

The application of regenerative principles, combined with layering as an industrial heritage approach, led to the development of an approach to adaptive re-use architecture capable of incorporating the past, resolving current issues and ensuring a productive future.

The programme, a facility for bio-prospecting and bio-design, allows for the creation of an inter-connected and closed-loop productive and economic system for the site capable of catalysing related and new industries in the surrounding industrial zone as well as providing public interfaces to the forgotten site.

The proposed architecture celebrates and enhances the relationship between the scarred landscape and the latent industrial heritage by re-connecting the mine, platform and surrounding building cluster. The space between these becomes a public space with new value and programmes.

The design suggests a proto-type for dealing with threatened industrial heritage in Johannesburg and South Africa. It demonstrates an approach to regenerating latent and polluted sites through a process of layering capable of expressing past, present and future prospects.

University of the Witwatersrand

Winner: Jason Ngibuini

Title of Thesis: Sherehe ya chai: Transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular as an immersive tea tasting retreat

In Kenya, tea plays a crucial role in the development of the country’s economy, accounting for 22% of its total exports. Being the third largest producer of black tea in the world, Kenya’s Tea industry is struggling due to the subsequent shortfall of exports lagging behind high levels of production. This thesis aims to expand on Kenya’s Tea Directorate’s plans to increase local consumption from 6.6% to 15% within the next five years by proposing a tea tasting retreat in Limuru, Kenya. The tea tasting retreat would allow visitors to gain an understanding of tea cultivation, tea production as well as the health benefits of tea consumption.

The tea tasting retreat would combine the programme of a greenhouse, tea production factory and tea house in order to allow visitors to experience a journey that starts with a tea leaf in the plantations and ends with tea tasting.

Furthermore, this thesis has helped me rediscover my cultural roots in Kenya and expand on my mother’s childhood stories around Kikuyu traditions, customs and way of life. Having been brought up in South Africa, research into Kikuyu traditional architecture was completely new to me and the application of post-colonial theory provided a base point to gain an understanding of how Kikuyu cultural practices influenced architectural space. With continuous discussions around post-colonial architecture in Kenya, a focus is put on the transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular architecture in order to ensure the cultural continuity of skills and expertise that are bound within traditional knowledge. The reinterpretation of these skills or expertise would not only enhance the visitor’s experience but also challenge the role of post-colonial theory in the search for Kenyan identity in contemporary architecture.


This annual competition enables Corobrik, the country’s leading producer of clay brick, to recognise the shining lights on the architectural map of the future. The top students from eight major universities are identified based on their final theses and presented with awards throughout the year.

This event allows students of today to chart the way forward during challenging times for developing countries such as South Africa which not only had to embrace the advances of the day but use these to address things that were unique to Africa whilst also embracing its cultural heritage.

Dirk Meyer said, “No matter how pressing the needs and challenges of our immediate built environment, we cannot forget that we exist in a global context. The world has embarked on a fourth revolution that has already ushered in unprecedented change and disruption and will continue to do so. We have seen the demise of the vinyl record and the analogue camera and the birth of new brands such as Uber, AirBNB and Google. Newspapers and magazines, book publishers and even the postal service are struggling to move with the times and stay relevant.”

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