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SA farmers must embrace the new, water-constrained normal

As the impact of an extended period of drought across much of South Africa and the Southern African Region continues to be felt, the realisation is setting in amongst both commercial and small-scale farmers that a water-constrained environment is no longer a short-term challenge but could, in fact, become their new normal.

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While this realisation is also dawning amongst agriculture stakeholders across much of the planet, it’s a reality that is particularly difficult for farmers in SA to deal with. That’s because they’re already challenged by having to operate in an environment of very low water supply per capita, compared to most other countries, not to mention an extremely low ratio of annual rainfall to annual water run-off. In fact, research done by WWF-SA showed that only about 9% of rainfall actually makes it into our rivers.

Since irrigated agriculture already accounts for more than 60% of SA’s total water usage, it’s highly unlikely that farming is set to enjoy a higher allocation of this scarce, vital resource anytime soon. In fact, the opposite is probably true. National government has declared its intention to significantly expand irrigation-based crop farming land use in the country, but no increased allocation in water rights have been specifically earmarked for this purpose.

A shift in farming mindset required

Clearly then, the onus now falls on SA’s agriculture sector – and its commercial farmers in particular – to shift the farming mindset from one of water usage to water stewardship, and proactively embrace more water-friendly technologies, practices, and attitudes.

The latter is arguably the most important paradigm shift that has to take place in order for agriculture in SA to achieve the levels of sustainability required. In previous eras, it has been acceptable for farmers to focus more on the profitability and yield potential of crops than on how thirsty they were. Today, the picture is vastly different, and profit margins have to be carefully balanced with water demand considerations of crops. That’s not to say that farmers with established water-intensive crops like tree nut or citrus orchards need to pull up their orchards and replace them with water-friendly alternatives. But where new farms or crops are to be established, indigenous or water-wise crops should now take precedence over high-profit, water intensive options.

There is also much that farmers with existing non-water-wise crops can do to lessen their impact and dependence on water. In many cases, achieving this merely requires a willingness to challenge practices that have been passed down for generations. It may also involve some short-term financial investment into water saving technology, but this will almost certainly deliver long-term sustainability returns.

One prime example of this change in mindset is being willing to invest time, effort and capital in converting a farming operation from spray to drip irrigation.

Then there are of course also the proven water and soil preservation benefits of shifting from the historically accepted practice of seasonal tilling of farmland to a low-till or no-till farming approach.

The bottom line is that there is so much information and technology available to farmers today, that there really is no excuse for anyone to be practicing farming methods that involve excessive amounts of water usage or wastage. And the simple truth is that only those farmers who are willing to invest the time and effort into learning how best to manage their farm’s water requirements will be the ones who are still in business, and producing, a decade from now.

The future of SA farming rests on emerging farmers

While it’s relatively easy for large-scale commercial farms to invest in water management technology and processes, the future of SA farming undoubtedly rests on the long-term success potential of its growing contingent of emerging farmers. In this regard, the industry has a clear responsibility to educate, enable and support this vital agriculture sector when it comes to instilling an attitude of water stewardship and effective water management at the outset.

Key to this large-scale adoption of water-efficient practices is the understanding by farmers – established and emerging – that managing water more effectively is not just a green consideration, it has become a prerequisite for ensuring long-term economic viability. For SA’s farmers the bottom line is that, when it comes to water usage, there is no longer a place for business as usual. The new, water-constrained ‘normal’ demands an absolute commitment to water efficiency – even if that means drastically changing the way they farm.
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Building a sustainable road ahead in a changing landscape

Modernisation, beneficiation and community development are key elements that have to be addressed if the South African Development Community (SADC) is to be sustainable in what is a changing landscape.

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While the SADC region has significant quantities of minerals, and these are the drivers of the member country’s economies, the mining sector is experiencing the same problems as its counterparts worldwide.

With increasing energy demand, fluctuating precious metals markets, a shifting exploration landscape, subdued commodity prices and a gradual – not steep – recovery forecast, among others, the region will still have to find answers if it is to survive, never mind be sustainable.

The inaugural SADC Africa Mining Conference explored these opportunities through the insights from various industry experts.

Modernisation

The industry is in a tough place, concurs Roger Baxter, CEO of the Chamber of Mines of South Africa. He believes the big challenge is that we continue to use conventional mining methods while we view modernisation as a threat; one that will do away with people. The answer, he says, is far more complicated than that and if we are to realise the potential of the SADC region we will need to migrate to modernisation.

“Modernisation holds massive cost benefits and will mean that mining can contribute to the economic development of region as a whole. If we modernised we would have 11 large gold mines and nine platinum mines that could be mined safety.”

However, without it what we have is a rapidly depleting resource that is costly but with declining jobs and limited export opportunities.

In fact the opposite is true. With modernisation, bigger ore bodies can be mined, job losses will be slowed down, skills will be developed, investment will flow in, and, if we manufacture the technology here, it will further mitigate job losses. “While this will take time – about 20 years – the impact on growth will be significant.”

Beneficiation

Charles Siwana, CEO of the Botswana Chamber of Mines, says mining companies need to position themselves into the lower quartile of the cost curve. He acknowledges that this is an easy statement to make, but a difficult one to carry out.

Next he says we need to tackle the infrastructure constraints we face, such as power interruptions. “Both the private and public sectors need to make themselves attractive to attract FDI. The private sector must indicate its ability to have a sustainable business that yields high returns, while governments must facilitate a conducive environment for such funds.”

The biggest opportunity for the region, in his opinion, is to beneficiate its raw materials instead of exporting them. “Africa has a history of exporting its raw materials and then importing the beneficiated goods back at a higher price. This has to stop.”

He adds that this will also help to close the gap when commodity prices do rise.

Mining communities

Mining community development is not succeeding, despite legislation and the intent of policies, with the benefits not being seen by the supposed beneficiaries.

So says Deepa Vallabh, director: cross border mergers & acquisitions: Africa & Asia, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyer. She has counselled mining companies for 17 years and, in her experience, the social labour plan (SLP) of many mining companies is a tick-box exercise, not a strategic plan for long-term sustainable development.

Government shares her view that community development as not working. “If the community is not seeing the benefit or correlation than it means it is not working and this includes mining communities that form part of the equity structure. When mines have sustained losses no dividends are paid. To properly benefit communities, long-term investment is needed.”

Given the above, she says there are other questions that also need to be asked. “When it comes to community development, what is the end goal of that community… do they want to stay there, or is it about developing skills that will take them to urbanised areas?”

If urbanisation is key for our future growth, she asks, why are we continuing to develop communities as if they are going to live there forever? It will only be there for as long as the life of the mine.”

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SAP Africa Code Week unlocks Africa’s future

Over the next two weeks Nigeria will play host to a series of official train-the-trainer (TTT) sessions as the country takes on a leading role in the build up to SAP Africa Code Week (ACW) 2016.

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Founded in 2015, ACW seeks to empower African youth with coding skills through hands-on and playful learning.

Spearheaded by SAP, world leaders in enterprise software, and with the support of hundreds of partners across Africa, its inaugural year saw more than 89,000 youth across 17 countries introduced to software coding within a mere ten days – four times the initial goal. The aim for ACW 2016 is to double that, reaching a minimum of 150,000 youth throughout 30 African countries.

“However, the sustainability of initiatives such as ACW relies heavily on skilled volunteers,” says Kudzai Danha, Managing Director for SAP West Africa.

“In order to train a new generation of Digital Economy workers in Africa we need to have skilled and knowledgeable instructors in place to provide mentorship, leadership and skills transfer to our ACW participants. It is our vision to not only help the world run better, but to improve people’s lives. TTT workshops enable the teachers of today to enable the innovators of tomorrow by providing a platform for the transfer of skills and knowledge from ‘Master Instructors’ to parents, teachers and educators, empowering them to become teachers who can train students in their local communities.”

Aimed at local school teachers, this week’s TTT workshops in Lagos and Abuja will seek to train in excess of 200 participants. The objective is to empower as many people as possible to take part in this year’s ACW and to ensure the sustainability of this initiative. With over 1,500 educators trained in 2015, all of whom have gone on to positively impact the lives of thousands of young people, SAP’s long-term goal is to empower more than 200,000 teachers reaching in excess of five million children and youth over the next ten years.

Lagos State’s Commissioner for Science & Technology Olufemi Odubiyi adds, “Africa Code Week is an opportunity for us to deliver leaders for tomorrow’s challenges. We need to show Africa and the rest of the world what Nigeria and, more importantly, what driven and determined African youth, can achieve. It is programmes like these that help showcase Nigeria’s game changing acts of solidarity and harmony to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, changing one country at a time while supporting growth through technology.”

Adding to Odubiyi’s comment, Lagos State’s Special Adviser on Education, Obafela Bank-Olemoh, says, “IT skills are the job currency of the future. It is not just our responsibility but also to our benefit to invest in putting African youth on the path to successful careers. Large-scale literacy initiatives, such as ACW, prove that public-private partnerships can be a strategic means to affect change. We are proud to be part of this programme”.

Africa’s working-age population is growing rapidly, but it’s estimated that less than one percent of African children leave school with basic coding skills. ACW helps shape the future workforce by sparking interest in software coding with participating youth receiving not only basic skills but also invaluable hands-on experience. The initiative provides learners from the ages of 8 – 17 with coding basics and the opportunity to program their own animations, quizzes and games. Older learners, aged 18-24, are provided an introduction to web technologies such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and SQL in order to provide them with a basic understanding of website architecture, teaching them how to develop a fully operational and mobile-friendly website.

Held from 15-23 October, ACW will provide thousands of free coding workshops and online training sessions to children and youth. The event always provides a number of ways for the public to get involved. Over and above actual attendance, opportunity exists for interested parties to host a free coding workshop, but to also receive free online training in Scratch (free software which simplifies the face of coding for youth).

The Nigeria TTT workshops will take place in Lagos on Tuesday, 27 September at the recently constructed Digital Village and Abuja on Thursday, 29 September in partnership with National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS). TTT workshops are open to all school teachers and any other parties interested in becoming part of ACW, and all attendees will receive 90 minutes of training, a USB with course notes and Scratch (coding programme) pre-loaded, T-shirts and a training certificate upon completion. To reward the efforts of the teachers involved in this initiative, the school that teaches coding to the most students will win a laptop and data projector valued at more than 176,000 NGN.
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Women in Logistics: harnessing opportunity to drive sustainable growth

In recent years, several major studies have demonstrated that having more female leaders, board members, managers, and supervisors lead to better business outcomes including higher levels of productivity, safety, and improved financial returns. More specifically, research referenced in the 2009 Women in Supply Chain report demonstrated that improving the proportion of women leads to higher financial returns for logistics companies. This insight was supported by the PWC Transportation & Logistics 2030 report, which stated that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least by 16% in return on sales, and by 26% in return on invested capital.

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These studies make a compelling business case for gender diversity and inclusion, which in previous decades has been largely ignored and under appreciated among the higher echelons of business leadership.

The studies consistently indicate that women have stronger communication and negotiation skills, bring a different perspective to understanding and solving problems, and are more meticulous in their approach to work. They also tend to score higher on tests of emotional intelligence (EQ). These qualities also make women strong collaborators, and their enhanced ability to communicate and connect with others is vital in a marketplace defined by complexity, disruption, and change.

Based on the growing body of evidence and the strong link to enhanced competitive advantage, a growing number of companies in South Africa and abroad are taking concrete steps to increase the number of women in key roles. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is also being undertaken as a business imperative in the wake of increasing social pressure to promote an inclusive economy, whereby the benefits of economic growth accrue to all who contribute. Increasingly, young entrants in the economy are also more aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Key challenges and opportunities within transport and logistics

The transport and logistics industry is typically described as a ‘non-traditional’ employment pathway for women. This prevailing view, documented in the 2015 South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) report, is supported by a perception that because the majority of employees in this industry are men, most work in this industry are stereotypically ‘masculine.’

Moreover, in the transport and logistics industry, women are predominately employed in support functions and occupy managerial roles in the areas of finance, information technology, communications, human resources, business development, procurement, and quality and risk management. Men, on the other hand, are predominantly employed in the technical, operational and ‘physical’ roles.

Encouragingly, several market developments are creating viable opportunities to include women in ‘non-traditional’ roles in the local and global industry. These include advances in technology such as automatic gearboxes and hydraulic lifting equipment, the retirement of existing workers, increasing levels of education and improved technical training among new entrants in the workforce.

Understanding the barriers to inclusion

As it stands, the number of women in the transport and logistics industry remains low. According to the PWC Transportation & Logistics 2030 global report, the number of women participating in the industry is as low as 20% to 30%. In addition, less than 10% of employees in management positions are women.

Another major hurdle to consider is that within road transportation, there is a dearth of skilled drivers. This shortage is amplified when it comes to female drivers, who are even harder to find due to historical biases and the often unfavourable working conditions – including time away from family, safety issues in long-haul routes, sleeping alone in the truck at night at rest stops with no security, and sometimes having to load and offload goods from trucks.

There are other practical reasons why it remains difficult for women to be employed in the industry beyond road transportation. For one, some training and accommodation facilities are not designed to accommodate women and need upgrades that are gender-sensitive. In addition, the safety of women (and all employees) travelling across long distances cannot be guaranteed in any circumstances, despite the preventative measures that companies put in place.

Furthermore, the existing opportunities for more women to work in the industry are often thwarted by the attitudes and behaviour of most men who maintain unfair gender discrimination practices in the workplace. These practices perpetuate barriers to entry for women.

Sadly, these conditions present an unattractive image of the industry to many women seeking meaningful and rewarding employment. Also, several employment surveys indicate that most women do not know much about logistics in general. However, that is not to say that women lack an interest in transport and logistics. According to the SAFC report, women have the desire to pursue educational qualifications in transport and logistics, and on average, achieve higher education levels than their male counterparts.

Charting industry growth through diversity and workplace culture

The importance of workplace culture cannot be underemphasised – and without a doubt, gender and diversity are key components of any supportive company culture. Indeed, a KPMG Women’s Leadership Study states that today’s most successful enterprises are those that bring diverse perspectives and experiences to each new challenge, and that along with being the right thing to do, diversity and inclusion leads to strategic advantage. This is no different in the transport and logistics industry, whereby male and female employees can, through equal opportunity and a success-oriented mindset, co-design innovative solutions that enhance customer service, increase employee satisfaction and engagement, improve financial returns and enhance profitable growth.

It is, therefore, critical to foster a workplace culture whereby constructive dialogue about the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion can take place between men and women. In our view, changes in culture require strong leadership and a clearly articulated strategy that is supported by commitment and demonstrable action. Simply employing more women in the industry is not enough – cultural and structural barriers must be removed.

A strategic and hands-on approach

We have taken a clear and strategic approach to incorporate Diversity and Inclusion as among our Vision 2020 strategic focus areas, with a goal to “maintain and enhance our competitiveness, credibility, and legitimacy in the eyes of all stakeholders by leading in diversity and inclusion across all of our businesses.” This is closely linked to the Group’s ‘People’ strategic focus area “to attract, develop and retain the people and skills required to deliver on our strategies and create shared value.”

In line with these commitments, the group has implemented several initiatives to attract, train, mentor and coach – as well as employ – women in transport and logistics. For example, we have established a professional driver learnership for 40 women within Barloworld Transport, a business unit of Barloworld Logistics. The programme supports 45 women who are currently completing the National Certificate in Professional Driving. The participants come from all walks of life – most of them were unemployed, many had never driven a vehicle before.

To date, 18 participants now have a Code 14 license, while others are able to successfully maneuver and reverse a truck around the yard, with some already starting on-road training. Notably, Barloworld Transport has also been successful in recruiting and employing female crane operators.

As Barloworld Logistics continues with these pioneering initiatives, the company is aware that as an employer seeking to gradually transform the industry, it is critical to foster a fair and equitable workplace that effectively addresses male and female attitudes and needs.

Key insights and the road ahead

Credible global research on diversity and inclusion, and particularly gender equality, has made a significant contribution to business by demonstrating that the meaningful inclusion of women at all occupational levels leads to better business outcomes. As previously noted, this includes higher levels of productivity and safety, better customer service, greater employee satisfaction and engagement, higher financial returns and more profitable growth.

These findings certainly carry over to the transport and logistics industry and thus present a unique opportunity for the industry to embrace this potential strategic advantage in the local market. Also, developments in technology, shifting demographic patterns and customer requirements play an important role, whereby the industry can actively leverage emerging opportunities to attract and employ women. Industries such as mining, engineering and construction have also recognised the importance and value of diversity and inclusion and are making promising progress in this regard.

To be clear, paving the road ahead for women in transport and logistics comes loaded with challenges and opportunities. Indeed, transforming the image of the industry, gender stereotypes and unfair workplace practices is not an easy task. However, with strong leadership commitment and action, it is possible to gradually remove barriers that prevent the broader participation of women in the industry. Our vision and strategic focus areas, as well as Barloworld Transport’s professional driver learnership for women, are tangible examples of commitment – at the highest levels – to promoting gender equity in the industry.

Looking forward, the inclusion of women in the transport and logistics industry is not only a business imperative but is increasingly part of a global push to promote inclusive and sustainable economic development.
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South African industry works towards ensuring water sustainability

The South African government has shown its commitment to ensuring future water sustainability through a number of water protection campaigns and investments.

The governments’ contribution to ensure future water sustainability is a clear demonstration of its commitment to finding solutions to the country’s multifaceted water challenges.

South Africa’s deteriorating water quality is a key factor in the country’s diminishing a water resource which is predicted to result in a 17% gap between supply and demand by 2030, if the problem is not addressed.

Improperly treated sewage, pesticides and fertilisers entering the water systems through agricultural practices and hazardous chemicals being released into the water systems by mining operations all contribute to the pollution of the country’s fresh water systems.

The mining sector has been a mainstay of the South African economy for more than 100 years, contributing 18% to the country’s GDP and employing 500 000 workers.

However, due to the nature of the business, it is also unfortunately a significant contributor to water pollution.

Although mining operations use relatively small volumes of water compared to other industrial sectors, the environmental and aquatic impact from water pollution caused by mining operations is significant.

Mining operations generate excess mine water and acid mine drainage (AMD) caused by toxic metals and other contaminants seeping out into rivers and other waterways.

As  a result, the government has recently committed to contributing R600 million annually to address the AMD problem in the country.

This investment comes after the successful completion of a short-term project to resolve the AMD problem in the Gauteng region by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), a state owned entity under the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The TCTA has recently been nominated by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to implement a long-term solution to the problem, which will involve further treatment of the mine water by removing the sulphates and creating water to be used in industry and as  potable water, resulting in the conversion of the AMD problem into a long-term sustainable solution by producing safe water.

Mine water strategies for the future

The Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) is a collaboration platform for some of the country’s biggest-name public and private, environment-savvy organisations and provides an avenue for high level public private engagement on water stewardship.

Thematic working groups have been set up within this initiative to address key priority areas relating to water quality, one of these being the management of effluent and waste water which addresses both mine impacted water and municipal effluent.

Amongst the group’s objectives are the improvement of mine water treatment to reduce pollutants in the environment, reduction of the amount of clean water required for dilution of pollutants in mining and increasing the availability of fresh water.

Closing the water demand gap

A current key priority is to close the water demand gap within the Olifants River catchment, an area of dense coal mining activity, where the SWPN believes mine water could contribute 11% of the water required to close the gap.

Thereby benefitting municipalities, industry, government and the public and fulfilling the requirement by government for mines to take responsibility for their water management.

Nikisi Lesufi, senior executive at the Chamber of Mines and member of the SWPN commented that in 2012, the Chamber of Mines in partnership with the DWS initiated a project on water conservation and demand management in the mining sector.

The project started by developing a guideline to mainstream water conservation and demand management (WCWDM) in the mining sector.

Thereafter, a process was initiated to set WCWDM targets for the mining sector, to develop accurate water balances, and finally to develop an online reporting system.

“We believe that with this system is in place, and from a sustainability perspective, the mining sector will be able to account for every drop of water from a quality and quantity perspective,” Lesufi says.

Marius Keet, chief director of mine water management at the DWS says that due to limited environmental policies in the early days of mining, water resource management in the mining industry was a fairly low priority.

However, with the introduction of regulations and stringent policies by the DWS together with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), significant changes have transpired within the mining industry that resulted in an increased focus on management of mining water uses and protection of water resources.

Water management strategies

Collective ‘water accounting’ for all mines working in a common catchment should be in place ensuring that the management of mine water does not present socio-economic and environmental risks.

“Moreover, such risks require appropriate management interventions, especially when mine closure is sought, thus ensuring any mining-related pollution is not externalised,” he commented.

Following the collaborative SWPN model, several mines operating in the Olifants Catchment have already begun jointly implementing strategies to manage excess mine water, such as the collaboration between Anglo American and South32, which has seen the construction of a desalination plant to ensure that excess mine water discharged into streams is acid-neutral.

Using membrane technology in a reverse osmosis process, this desalination plant accepts effluent from five mines and is modified to achieve 99% efficiency in salt removal, thereby treating it to potable water standards and supplying it to local municipalities. This is one of several examples of collective action to improve water quality.

The SWPN highlights and commends the efforts made to improve mine water management at Kilbrachan colliery –  a non-operational coal mine in Newcastle owned by power utility Eskom, located next to Ingagane River.

Eskom together with tertiary education institution the University of the Free State have undertaken to implement a pilot plant at the Kilbrachan site to determine if the plant can be used to manage water levels at the underground mine.

The pilot plant is based on a BDAS (barium carbonate-disperse alkaline substrate) technology which uses wood chips coated with barium to treat mine affected water.

The pilot plant is comprised of four tanks filled with barium coated wood chips.

Polluted water is pumped into the tanks and allowed to react with the coated chips which successfully treat the polluted water.

By using this passive system, the water is being treated to almost potable standards, which provides great opportunities for use of this water by other sectors, including municipalities and irrigators.

A further example of innovation by SWPN members is that demonstrated by petrochemicals producer Sasol in its Synfuels operation in Secunda, where excess water from underground mining operations is pumped into a holding dam.

Then desalinated through a membrane plant or electro dialysis reversal (EDR) and further desalinated using a spiral reverse osmosis membrane (SRO).

Innovation needed to solve AMD

The SWPN believes  that solving the AMD issue will require a mix of innovative solutions which include both active and passive treatment.

Passive management options include the use of saline mine water for food production that aims to make beneficial use of a challenging resource which nevertheless carries extensive potential.

The SWPN in partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), Anglo Coal, Exxaro and South32 are currently undertaking a demonstration project on 60 ha of allocated land on the Mafube Colliery, which uses poor quality mine water for soybean and wheat production.

These are highly salt tolerant crops for which South Africa is currently a net importer.

This demonstrates the significant potential for the mining and agricultural sectors to work together to achieve food security whilst also contributing to the protection of water sources.

Active treatment, which encompasses systems engineered to accommodate any acidity, are more costly than their passive counterparts.

Passive systems are generally less costly but have limitations in that they are best suited to treatment of water with lower acidity loads.

Whether by either active or passive treatment, the SWPN believes that treating AMD has the potential to provide significant benefit in the reuse of the water by the mines themselves and other key sectors.

With every challenge faced, there are emergent opportunities to be seized and the mine water and AMD domain is a prime example.

It is time that the water sectors moves beyond the admiration of the problem and rather focus on its efforts on the vast possibilities, options for tangible positive results and sustain the South African economy.
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How to use product life cycle analysis to your advantage. (David Baggs)

Source: miningreview


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South African industry works towards ensuring water sustainability

The South African government has shown its commitment to ensuring future water sustainability through a number of water protection campaigns and investments.

Find sales opportunities in your market

The governments’ contribution to ensure future water sustainability is a clear demonstration of its commitment to finding solutions to the country’s multifaceted water challenges.

South Africa’s deteriorating water quality is a key factor in the country’s diminishing a water resource which is predicted to result in a 17% gap between supply and demand by 2030, if the problem is not addressed.

Improperly treated sewage, pesticides and fertilisers entering the water systems through agricultural practices and hazardous chemicals being released into the water systems by mining operations all contribute to the pollution of the country’s fresh water systems.

The mining sector has been a mainstay of the South African economy for more than 100 years, contributing 18% to the country’s GDP and employing 500 000 workers.

However, due to the nature of the business, it is also unfortunately a significant contributor to water pollution.

Although mining operations use relatively small volumes of water compared to other industrial sectors, the environmental and aquatic impact from water pollution caused by mining operations is significant.

Mining operations generate excess mine water and acid mine drainage (AMD) caused by toxic metals and other contaminants seeping out into rivers and other waterways.

As  a result, the government has recently committed to contributing R600 million annually to address the AMD problem in the country.

This investment comes after the successful completion of a short-term project to resolve the AMD problem in the Gauteng region by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), a state owned entity under the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The TCTA has recently been nominated by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to implement a long-term solution to the problem, which will involve further treatment of the mine water by removing the sulphates and creating water to be used in industry and as  potable water, resulting in the conversion of the AMD problem into a long-term sustainable solution by producing safe water.

Mine water strategies for the future

The Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) is a collaboration platform for some of the country’s biggest-name public and private, environment-savvy organisations and provides an avenue for high level public private engagement on water stewardship.

Thematic working groups have been set up within this initiative to address key priority areas relating to water quality, one of these being the management of effluent and waste water which addresses both mine impacted water and municipal effluent.

Amongst the group’s objectives are the improvement of mine water treatment to reduce pollutants in the environment, reduction of the amount of clean water required for dilution of pollutants in mining and increasing the availability of fresh water.

Closing the water demand gap

A current key priority is to close the water demand gap within the Olifants River catchment, an area of dense coal mining activity, where the SWPN believes mine water could contribute 11% of the water required to close the gap.

Thereby benefitting municipalities, industry, government and the public and fulfilling the requirement by government for mines to take responsibility for their water management.

Nikisi Lesufi, senior executive at the Chamber of Mines and member of the SWPN commented that in 2012, the Chamber of Mines in partnership with the DWS initiated a project on water conservation and demand management in the mining sector.

The project started by developing a guideline to mainstream water conservation and demand management (WCWDM) in the mining sector.

Thereafter, a process was initiated to set WCWDM targets for the mining sector, to develop accurate water balances, and finally to develop an online reporting system.

“We believe that with this system is in place, and from a sustainability perspective, the mining sector will be able to account for every drop of water from a quality and quantity perspective,” Lesufi says.

Marius Keet, chief director of mine water management at the DWS says that due to limited environmental policies in the early days of mining, water resource management in the mining industry was a fairly low priority.

However, with the introduction of regulations and stringent policies by the DWS together with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), significant changes have transpired within the mining industry that resulted in an increased focus on management of mining water uses and protection of water resources.

Water management strategies

Collective ‘water accounting’ for all mines working in a common catchment should be in place ensuring that the management of mine water does not present socio-economic and environmental risks.

“Moreover, such risks require appropriate management interventions, especially when mine closure is sought, thus ensuring any mining-related pollution is not externalised,” he commented.

Following the collaborative SWPN model, several mines operating in the Olifants Catchment have already begun jointly implementing strategies to manage excess mine water, such as the collaboration between Anglo American and South32, which has seen the construction of a desalination plant to ensure that excess mine water discharged into streams is acid-neutral.

Using membrane technology in a reverse osmosis process, this desalination plant accepts effluent from five mines and is modified to achieve 99% efficiency in salt removal, thereby treating it to potable water standards and supplying it to local municipalities. This is one of several examples of collective action to improve water quality.

The SWPN highlights and commends the efforts made to improve mine water management at Kilbrachan colliery –  a non-operational coal mine in Newcastle owned by power utility Eskom, located next to Ingagane River.

Eskom together with tertiary education institution the University of the Free State have undertaken to implement a pilot plant at the Kilbrachan site to determine if the plant can be used to manage water levels at the underground mine.

The pilot plant is based on a BDAS (barium carbonate-disperse alkaline substrate) technology which uses wood chips coated with barium to treat mine affected water.

The pilot plant is comprised of four tanks filled with barium coated wood chips.

Polluted water is pumped into the tanks and allowed to react with the coated chips which successfully treat the polluted water.

By using this passive system, the water is being treated to almost potable standards, which provides great opportunities for use of this water by other sectors, including municipalities and irrigators.

A further example of innovation by SWPN members is that demonstrated by petrochemicals producer Sasol in its Synfuels operation in Secunda, where excess water from underground mining operations is pumped into a holding dam.

Then desalinated through a membrane plant or electro dialysis reversal (EDR) and further desalinated using a spiral reverse osmosis membrane (SRO).

Innovation needed to solve AMD

The SWPN believes  that solving the AMD issue will require a mix of innovative solutions which include both active and passive treatment.

Passive management options include the use of saline mine water for food production that aims to make beneficial use of a challenging resource which nevertheless carries extensive potential.

The SWPN in partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), Anglo Coal, Exxaro and South32 are currently undertaking a demonstration project on 60 ha of allocated land on the Mafube Colliery, which uses poor quality mine water for soybean and wheat production.

These are highly salt tolerant crops for which South Africa is currently a net importer.

This demonstrates the significant potential for the mining and agricultural sectors to work together to achieve food security whilst also contributing to the protection of water sources.

Active treatment, which encompasses systems engineered to accommodate any acidity, are more costly than their passive counterparts.

Passive systems are generally less costly but have limitations in that they are best suited to treatment of water with lower acidity loads.

Whether by either active or passive treatment, the SWPN believes that treating AMD has the potential to provide significant benefit in the reuse of the water by the mines themselves and other key sectors.

With every challenge faced, there are emergent opportunities to be seized and the mine water and AMD domain is a prime example.

It is time that the water sectors moves beyond the admiration of the problem and rather focus on its efforts on the vast possibilities, options for tangible positive results and sustain the South African economy.
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Source: miningreview


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The young will grow Africa’s agriculture

“Whenever I am with energetic young people, I feel like a recharged battery,” Nelson Mandela once said. The youth of Africa was to the fore in the mind of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates too, when he delivered the annual Nelson Mandela lecture in Pretoria recently.

Youth and innovation

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Highlighting data that predicts that two billion babies will be born on the African continent in the next 35 years, Gates spoke about the role that young people, as innovators, can play in Africa’s future. “Young people are better than old people at driving innovation because they are not locked in by the limits of the past,” he said.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, with approximately one in five on the continent aged between 15 and 24 years. That’s over 200 million people. This demographic represents both a great opportunity and a great challenge for the region.

When we speak about youth and innovation, we think of the urban environment, of technology and startup businesses. But at Self Help Africa, we see the vast potential that youth holds for Africa’s rural areas and, in particular, for its farms.

Africa’s farming sector needs the resource of youth more than any other food producing region on earth. Although the continent’s population is the youngest in the world, its farmers are the oldest – with the average age of land-holders in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa reaching almost 65 years. In the West, that’s retirement age.

A challenge facing farm production in Africa

Therein lies a significant part of the challenge that faces farm production in Africa.

I recently returned from Uganda, where Self Help Africa has just started work on an EU-backed project that seeks to create employment and income-generating opportunities for 3,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 27 years in the country’s northwest. The three-year project will work with 1,500 young men and 1,500 women, and create job and self-employment opportunities for these people within their home region.

In Northern Uganda, as in many remote parts of Africa, there is frequently a disconnection between young people and the land, which is the most likely source of income and opportunity they are likely to find. But many young people in Sub-Saharan Africa have a negative view of farming. It’s hard work, challenging, and, undertaken mainly with hand tools, has historically represented a grinding struggle just to survive.

The fact that in many instances, young people do not have access to land – for reasons of social hierarchy – encourages them to turn their attentions elsewhere, in the hope of making their way in the world. As a direct consequence, in the early 21st century Africa has some of the fastest growing cities, and impoverished shanty towns, in the world.

Work needs to be done

I believe that the young people of Africa are a vital element in the ongoing effort to drive growth in the agricultural sector, and create a future for the continent’s young population.

But work needs to be done at a State level to unlock opportunities for young people in rural Africa, by facilitating access to land ownership and to financial services – startup finance being one of the major obstacles to starting activities on a farm.

The non-profit sector, too, has a crucial role to play. We can support rural young people to achieve their full potential by training them to grow improved and sustainable crops. But that’s not enough. By also linking young farmers to markets, we can help them transform their farming activities into profitable businesses, improving their livelihoods on the long-term.

Innovation will also be key if we are to succeed in the challenge of driving Africa’s young labour force into the agricultural sector. New technologies can allow us to reach individuals in remote areas and to give them access to extension services and early weather warnings.

In late 2015, the new Sustainable Development Goals announced by the United Nations set a target of ending hunger by 2030. I believe that this target will be missed if the youth is left behind in our global development efforts.
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Source: bizcommunity


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How lean technology can save your business

Businesses will not survive, if they don’t start adopting a lean mindset (start small, fail fast if you will). Economic conditions, customer needs and a lack of financial resources are forcing businesses to operate more efficiently and to engage customers more effectively.By Craig Terblanche, regional director at Out Systems South Africa

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Business survival hinges on the ability to change, to become lean and agile (with a small “a”).

The ability to change, is increasingly being driven by a more digital mindset and evolving market.

In the next decade the majority of your customers will be millennials and we believe, there has never been a better time for African businesses to embrace digital transformation.

While digital transformation, is a concept that is liberally bandied about – for many companies, the question remains, ‘How do we start lean’?

Lean is about identifying a problem (having a view of what the customer needs) and testing a  solution to validate the customer need. To do this however, businesses face an interesting conundrum.

The first option, the most expensive one, is to hire consultants to help understand what your customer needs, through a process of assumptions (perhaps validated by surveys of focus groups) and scenario setting.

The alternative, is to  take a lean approach, make your own assumptions and validate, or negate these systematically. Timing is everything. If you believe the time is right, a lean approach will allow you to find out sooner rather than later.

The right technology can be the differentiator both in terms of validation, and implementation.  This is where the concept of lean technology comes in.

To digitally transform, a business does not need to invest in a 100-strong digital team.  Lean technology uses the existing resources in an organisation that can be leveraged (millennials, entrepreneurs and problem solvers) to start the process of modernising and innovating.

Lean technology solutions give organisations the ability to validate as many assumptions as possible instead of investing in  a slow solution with long timelines and a big budget. Once in the market, customer feedback on the digital product will allow a company to pivot and be agile enough to adjust the offering.

Using lean technology means that businesses can build a golden thread, or basic solution, that isn’t overloaded with features and functionality.   This is a minimal valuable product (MVP), and it enables a cost effective, scalable approach to testing specific features and the usability of applications.  This approach ensures that the agility, and speed to change (or enhance) is not lost.

Leveraging feedback mechanisms to measure, track and collect data about how customers are interacting with the product, will help businesses understand its viability for further development (or not).

Resistance is futile

But there is still resistance. The misnomer that digital transformation means overhauling and changing a company’s technology footprint is one reason why businesses remain hesitant. There is no need for a big bang approach, with the risk of  switching everything off and turning a new system on.

The second hindrance is resistance within organisations. There are CEOs who are reluctant to change. They believe that face-to-face customer interaction is the “be all and end all” of their businesses market strategy.  This resistance leaves the company at risk of losing market share to a competitor who is able to adapt to evolving customer needs.

The biggest hindrance of change may be management’s inability to change. Old managers are not equipped to implement new ways of engagement so they’d prefer not to change. They often say’ we’ve tried that and it didn’t work’ or that won’t work for us. The classic “not invented here” syndrome.

Digital transformation is a business necessity. The myths that surround its design and implementation are preventing South African companies from being great and side stepping the disruptors in their market.
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Source: techfinancials


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Africa needs entrepreneurs

With a majority of African nations diversifying from traditional sources of income, entrepreneurship is increasingly seen as a key to economic growth. So far, entrepreneurship has yielded huge returns for entrepreneurs, and according to experts, there lies great untapped potential to drive the African continent into its next phase of development.

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A study released in June 2015 by Approved Index, a UK-based business networking group, ranked Africa as among the top of the entrepreneurship chart. The Entrepreneurship around the world report listed Uganda, Angola, Cameroon and Botswana among the top ten on the entrepreneurship list.

The group sees entrepreneurship as a “necessity” at a time of high unemployment, saying: “When unemployment is high and the economy is weaker, people are forced to start small businesses to provide for themselves and their families.”

Entrepreneurship is seen as one of the most sustainable job generation tools in Africa.

Roselyn Vusia, a human rights advocate, points out that Uganda’s youth unemployment – estimated to be 83 percent, according to the African Development Bank’s 2014 report – is one of the highest in Africa.

Unemployment around the continent is also worrying. A 2013 study by Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, found that African youth (15 to 24 years) constitute about 37 percent of the working age population. The same age group, however, accounts for about 60 percent of jobless people in Africa.

Kwame Owino of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank based in Nairobi, says: High youth population, poor policy choices and a lack of comprehensive employment plans in many African nations precipitate the high rates of unemployment.”

Skills development focus

Vusia comments on one proactive approach: “The government of Uganda has implemented an entrepreneurship strategy that is focused on skills development, resource provision and access to markets. This seems to be bearing fruit,” she says.

The importance of entrepreneurship was underscored at the July 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, attended by US President Barack Obama, entrepreneurs from more than 100 countries and a group of US investors, among others.

Speaking at the summit, Obama lauded entrepreneurship for its promise for Africa with participants at the GES agreeing with him that entrepreneurship is one of the key ingredients in the toolbox to address youth unemployment in Africa, the region with the youngest population in the world. “Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world – it is the spark of prosperity,” Obama said.

According to Evans Wadongo, listed by Forbes Africa as one of the most promising young African entrepreneurs, many African governments have not been keen on developing policies that will avert unemployment among the youth in a big way.

“Governments are not doing enough. The private sector is trying, but most goods brought into the African market are from China. This denies the youth the much needed manufacturing jobs, which are more labour intensive,” he says.

Kenya’s cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, Adan Mohammed, however, defends the policies of most African governments, saying that their efforts have been spurring confidence in the continent and are enabling more young people to turn toward entrepreneurship.

“Success breeds success – as many entrepreneurs make headway, others get on board. Also, technology-based inventions are pulling entrepreneurs,” Mohammed says. “The mindset has changed and many young people now think as employers. Many African governments have ­created opportunities in terms of finance and access to markets.”

Commenting on the increase in foreign investment and economic growth in Africa, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda says his government’s efforts to promote entrepreneurial culture have produced “remarkable results”. For instance, the state-run Youth Venture Capital Fund trains and provides money to young people with good business ideas. The government also helps young entrepreneurs to market their products.

Most importantly, with youth ­comprising more than 75 percent of its population, Uganda has remodelled its education system to include entrepreneurship as one of the subjects of instruction in secondary schools and colleges.

Also, with the help of the private sector and development agencies, the government has established information, communication and technology innovation hubs, which help entrepreneurs to launch successful start-ups.

Enabling environment

In Kenya, Eric Kinoti, the group managing director at Safisana Home Services, a company that provides cleaning services, hopes the government will follow Uganda’s example by creating an enabling environment to support entrepreneurship that can create jobs for youth.

“Many financial institutions in Kenya expect young people to provide collateral, yet only a few investors are ready to invest in young people’s ideas,” notes Kinoti, who mentors other young entrepreneurs and is listed among Forbes Top 30 under 30 in Africa.

Lack of access to working capital has hampered entrepreneurship in Kenya. Even though the government has created the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and Uwezo Fund to support youth entrepreneurship, budgetary constraints limit their impact.

“Entrepreneurship, if well managed, can create more jobs on the continent and increase the middle class, which is essential in sustaining economic growth. There is need to integrate entrepreneurship training in formal education in Africa to prepare the youth for the future,” Wadongo says.

In Cameroon, Olivia Mukami, the president and founder of Harambe-Cameroon, a social entrepreneurship organisation, insists that Africa needs to prioritise youth unemployment: “African countries are sitting on a powder keg and if they don’t change, it is going to explode.”

Mukami says that in addition to contributing to job creation, entrepreneurship can also help the continent solve some of the social problems that undermine progress. “I am encouraged that the government of Cameroon has prioritised entrepreneurship as a key pillar of Cameroon Vision 2035.”

Andrew Wujung, a lecturer of Economics at University of Bamenda in Cameroon, attributes the country’s entrepreneurship effort to its unique poverty reduction strategy. Unlike other countries in Africa, Cameroon’s poverty alleviation strategy is linked to entrepreneurship. Moreover, the government is organising robust skill acquisition and training programmes for entrepreneurs and making credit facility easily accessible to people with innovative technological and business ideas.

For entrepreneurship to strongly impact Africa’s economy, governments must tackle some of the greatest challenges that impede its progress, including lack of funds, relevant mentorship and poor government policies. In addition, African governments should consider giving the private sector incentives through tax relief to create more jobs. Laws and regulations should favour entrepreneurs.

Mohammed says Africa is on the right path. But to reap the fruits of entrepreneurship, effective strategies and policies are required to create more employment opportunities within small and medium enterprises.
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Africa: Innovative Upcycling of Food Waste Expands Opportunities for Food Waste Management

PRESS RELEASE

London — Key emerging opportunities will be in the conversion of food waste to products such as plastics, fruit juices, food ingredients, and liquid fuels, finds Frost & Sullivan

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The concept of food waste management (FMW) has gained traction with the declaration of food waste reduction as a target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Countries across the globe are showing greater interest in reducing as well as managing food wastage. The present gap between the amount of food waste generated globally and the number of storage and recycling facilities in operation translates to significant opportunities for the development of effective FWM technologies.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Emerging Trends and Opportunities in Food Waste Management, finds that policies favouring food waste reduction in Europe and North America and the setting of global targets greatly aid the development of FWM technologies. The most popular methods for FWM at present are composting and anaerobic digestion. However, they do not help salvage unspoilt food from the food waste. These processes can also be energy intensive, substantially reducing the overall environmental benefits of FWM.

“Currently, there is a demand for technologies that can convert food unfit for human consumption to animal feed,” said TechVision Research Analyst Lekshmy Ravi. “Technology developers are simultaneously working on repackaging or repurposing food waste to food for human consumption using less energy-intensive solutions and employing novel management models.”

There are considerable research and industry initiatives for the conversion of food waste to products such as plastics, fruit juices and food ingredients. Additionally, innovative FWM companies are trying to convert food waste to valuable products such as liquid fuels.

While technology developers are looking to eliminate inefficiencies in FWM, it is also necessary to form strategic partnerships along the various links of the food supply chain. These synergies can help improve the efficiency of FWM and facilitate the exchange of technologies and techniques.

“Eventually, companies are likely to adopt models that enable the efficient and cost-effective extraction of valuable products from food waste,” noted Ravi. “Overall, key emerging opportunities are expected to be in the extraction of edible ingredients from food waste, conversion of misshapen fruits to saleable products, and conversion of byproducts from food production.”

Emerging Trends and Opportunities in Food Waste Management, part of the TechVision subscription, offers a detailed account of FWM’s global trends. It discusses various solutions for FWM and studies the various pathways that could be adopted, as well as innovative technology and management solutions. Our expert analysts have identified emerging business models for FWM and employed Porter’s Five Forces to analyse the various FWM pathways.

Frost & Sullivan’s global TechVision practice is focused on innovation, disruption and convergence and provides a variety of technology based alerts, newsletters and research services as well as growth consulting services. Its premier offering, the TechVision program, identifies and evaluates the most valuable emerging and disruptive technologies enabling products with near-term potential. A unique feature of the TechVision program is an annual selection of 50 technologies that can generate convergence scenarios, possibly disrupt the innovation landscape, and drive transformational growth.

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Source: allafrica


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