South Africa: Securing PE’s Water through Landscape Restoration and Water Stewardship

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Santam, Living Lands, Commonland, Department of Water and Sanitation (Eastern Cape)


The city of Port Elizabeth, home to approximately 1.2 million people, is the largest municipality in the Eastern Cape Province. It is home to a large automotive and industrial sector, as well as the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) which is developing into the largest IDZ in the Southern Hemisphere. Furthermore, just outside the city lies productive agricultural land that is particularly important for dairy production and deciduous fruit export.

Steady water supply to Port Elizabeth is critical to sustain the growing local economy and population. The city receives approximately 70% of its water from the Kouga, Baviaans and Kromme catchments that originate in the mountains north-west of Port Elizabeth. Historical practices of overgrazing, poor land management and spatial planning, wetland degradation, together with invasive alien species infestation, have led to erosion and altering of riparian ecosystems. This considerable change in the landscape has decreased the resilience of the area to cope with natural disasters such as flooding and fire – the effects of which are now intensified by climate change.

The increasing number of natural disasters threatens the sustainability of the growing industrial and agricultural sectors in and downstream of the catchments. This, in turn, threatens job security and the livelihoods of people residing in these areas.


Approach and Objectives

These challenges have caught the attention of Santam – one of the largest short-term and agricultural insurance providers in South Africa. Not only does Santam have to understand the natural risks facing its client base in order to ensure accurate underwriting, but if the risk of natural disasters becomes too high it could lead to higher insurance premiums for customers, or, when not addressed, the area could become uninsurable. Acknowledging the complexity of the challenges outlined above, Santam joined the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP), the Commonland Foundation, Living Lands and the Department of Water and Sanitation in the Eastern Cape to address these risks through a catchment-wide collaborative partnership.


The following activities are being implemented by the core partners. Additional partners are being brought in to complement these measures.

1) IWaSP commissioned the development of a hydrological model to predict potential flooding and water scarcity that could arise under different future scenarios of impact and mitigation. The user-friendly visualisation of this assessment is being used to illustrate the business case for companies to consider their water risks and mitigation options.

2) Commonland is developing alternative business models for farmers to help them revert to crops with a lesser environmental impact. This will support alternative, stable incomes for local farmers, as well as employment opportunities. The visualisation model also supports this effort.

3) The Governance Support Programme by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in South Africa joined the partnership by supporting capacity building in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality. A capacity needs assessment has been completed and is now being used to develop measures, in close cooperation with the municipality and Santam’s Business-Adopt-a-Municipality-Programme, to help them improve capacity for disaster risk  management and climate change adaptation planning.

4) The project partners are working towards getting more corporate partners on board to extend the project activities. The aim is to link to existing initiatives in the region and to also address water-use efficiency in Port Elizabeth to support better use of the water gained from the upstream activities.

5) Complementing the core partnership activities, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation has committed funds to allow for the restoration of some of the highly degraded upstream land in the catchment.


Challenges and Outlook

In order to positively impact on water security in this region, it is imperative that more businesses and farmers join the partnership. Achieving this will be the focus of 2016. Strong government involvement will be a priority, in order to sustain the improvements to water resources and disaster risk management.

Country Set-up

In South Africa, IWaSP is anchored in GIZ’s Centre for Cooperation with the Private Sector (CCPS), an umbrella unit of different programmes which aims to promote cooperation with the private sector. It is based at the GIZ office in Pretoria.

IWaSP is an international water security programme which combines global best practices in water stewardship with local know-how. Currently active in seven countries, the six-year programme (2013-2018) facilitates partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and civil society to address shared water risks, while improving stakeholders’ use and management of water and building their capacity to develop their own solutions. GIZ manages IWaSP on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID).


Contact Information

Dr Nicole Kranz
Hatfield Gardens Office Park Block C,
333 Grosvenor Street, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028