South Africa: Water Stewardship in the Upper Breede River Catchment in the Western Cape Province

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Woolworths, Marks & Spencer (M&S), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA)


Approximately 130km north-east of Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, lies one of the most important deciduous fruit growing areas in the country. According to recent estimates, these farms, situated around the town of Ceres in the Upper Breede River Catchment, provide permanent and temporary employment for about 25,000 people. This area is unfortunately also water-stressed due to growing agricultural activities, as well as population growth, pollution from farms and informal settlements, extensive populations of water-intensive alien invasive trees and climate change.

In 2013, UK-based retailer M&S embarked on an effort to tackle water risks in its global supply chain. A risk assessment pointed to the Western Cape as a high-risk area for its stone fruit supply due to water-scarce conditions. Following this, the WWF assessed farms supplying to M&S and local retailer Woolworths to investigate the causes of water scarcity according to the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard.


Approach and Objectives

Following this process, a workshop with the participating farmers and various catchment role-players was held to identify which practical measures could be implemented to address the water risks identified. In 2015, the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP), a programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, joined M&S,  Woolworths, WWF, the AWS as well as the Breede–Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) to implement the identified measures.


The partnership aims to:

1) Improve the quality of run-off water from two informal housing areas, Nduli and Prince Alfred Hamlet
Based on assessment of potential sources of pollution entering the river, the project partners established a community-driven education programme to change behaviour within these communities. With help from two established non-governmental organisations (NGOs), this initiative is underway with about 30 eager community volunteers participating. One group of volunteers have received training to monitor manholes and littering in their neighbourhoods to ensure incidents are reported to the municipality as soon as possible. The other group have been trained to educate their peers on behavioural improvement.

2) Localise the AWS standard for easier application
Parallel to this partnership, the Danish Government provided funding to WWF and the AWS to develop an online, web-based tool which adapts the AWS standard to the agricultural sector of the Breede River Valley. Farmers supplying to Marks & Spencer and Woolworths are currently testing the AWS standard on their farms.

3) Strengthen stakeholder relations in the catchment to enable joint action
This is the first water stewardship project in South Africa which has a catchment management agency as a project partner. The BGCMA is responsible for water resources management in the catchment and needs to perform this task through a participatory approach which will include and benefit all stakeholders. This means that it is perfectly placed to provide input about the project and to help ensure the sustainability of project activities.

4) Find solutions for alien invasive tree infestations
Before invasive trees can be cleared or removed, the extent of the problem and practical measures for clearing need to be established. This partnership focuses on these preparatory measures. The interest shown by landowners on this issue has been overwhelming and prompted the government-supported LandCare project to commit to funding a small-scale clearing initiative in the area in 2015, while prospects for long-term clearing in the Ceres valley are being considered.


Challenges and Outlook

This project will provide important insights into the practical use of the AWS Standard at farm-level; insights which could help ensure the uptake of the standard in the agricultural sector beyond this area in the future. Project partners are working towards securing long-term funding to establish the community-based programme and to train the volunteers to run the initiative entirely by themselves.

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