However, in an effort to maintain a culture of water conservation, the city has only partially lift Level-2 water restrictions, according to section 44 (3) of the Water Services by-law:
- On an annual basis, between 6:00 and 18:00 from September 1 to March 31, and between 8:00 and 16:00 from April 1 to August 31, all consumers are prohibited from watering and irrigating their gardens.
- All consumers are prohibited from using a hosepipe to clean paved areas and driveways with municipal water.
The JMPD has issued a total of 665 fines to consumers who contravened the Water Services by-law and consumers are urged to report non-compliance by phoning the JMPD 24/7 hotline on 011 758 9650.
The current water footprint for the City of Joburg is 309 litres per capita per day, compared to the national and world averages of 274 litres and 175 litres, respectively. At the height of the restrictions, the demand reduced to 289 litres per capita per day.
As per the Government Gazette Notice No. 910 of Monday, March 13, the Director-General of the Department of Water and Sanitation withdrew the water restrictions within the Integrated Vaal River System.
However, South Africa remains a water scarce country and the City of Joburg remains a net importer of water.
Residents are, therefore, urged to maintain vigilance in conserving this scarce resource.
The risk of demand outstripping supply in the intervening period between now and the commissioning of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Project (2025) remains a real threat.
According to the 2009 Phase II feasibility report, the full yield is expected to be utilised by approximately 2030.
The City of Cape Town has urged residents to check their water bills and meters regularly after a resident who was named and shamed for excessive water consumption discovered a massive underground leak on his property.
“It has made people sit up and take note,” said mayoral spokesperson Zara Nicholson.
On Monday, the city released the names of the streets where 100 properties the city identified as having recorded the highest water usage are located.
Nicholson said the tactic is having the desired effect because the owner of the property on Haywood Road, Crawford, which topped the list at 702 000 litres of water used in January, has since contacted the city to report the leak.
In addition to the massive water bill, he will also have to foot the bill for the repairs as the leak is on private property within a boundary wall. The city is only responsible for piping beyond boundary walls.
According to Nicholson many people do not even know there is a problem because they don’t read their water bills or even check that they are being billed correctly.
The municipality has also sent letters to 20 000 other people querying their high water consumption and suggesting that they should check for leaks.
If it is still turning, an underground leak is likely.
“It is their responsibility to monitor the bills and identify the leaks and have [them] repaired.
“The numbers are there and are accurate,” said Nicholson.
Residents from low-income households are allowed to apply for free plumbing services through their local municipal services centre, in line with policies that protect the indigent if they cannot afford to fix leaks themselves.
120 days of water left
The “top 100” list initially contained the details of people who had already declared a dispute with the city, so their addresses were left off Monday’s list.
“The people that are on the list are people who clearly haven’t monitored their account,” she said.
“There are people who feel they can pay the fine. There are people who only found out by seeing their street in the newspaper.”
Consumption was at 837 million litres of collective use per day compared to the target of 700 million litres per day.
“We have 121 days left of usable water in our dams,” said De Lille at a briefing to drive home the crisis facing the city.
On Monday dam levels were at 33%, down from 1.5% a week ago. The last 10% of a dam’s water is not usable.
The focus of the government has to be on expanding micro-irrigation coverage
India is home to 17.5% of the world’s population, but only 4% of its fresh water resources. Agriculture consumes some 78% of the country’s fresh-water supply. With increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, India will not only have to augment supply, but also use the same more efficiently.
Budget 2017 allocates R7,377 crore towards the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), a 42% jump over the revised estimates for the current fiscal. Further, finance minister Arun Jaitley has made a smart move in providing R20,000 crore as corpus for the Long Term Irrigation Fund, on top of R20,000 crore in FY17, to bring 7.6 million hectares of land under irrigation by fast-tracking the completion of 99 prioritised projects in the four years between 2016 and 2020. The corpus is to be created by Nabard through borrowings from the market; this will keep the government’s own fiscal deficit in control! Jaitley has created a dedicated Micro-Irrigation Fund with an initial corpus of R5,000 crore, again through Nabard on similar lines.
Within the allocation for PMKSY in this budget, R3,400 crore or 46% has been set aside for the ‘per drop more crop’ component—an increase of more than 70% over the FY17 allocation of R1,990 crore. In real terms, the budget allocation for micro-irrigation in FY18 works out to be 22% higher than the revised estimates of FY11, and nearly 57% more than that for FY16, as is shown in the accompanying graph.
Micro-irrigation has gradually expanded in the country and stands at around 8.73 million hectares in FY17. But, this is just 13% of the total coverage potential of 69.5 million hectares. Micro-irrigation systems deliver water savings of up to 40% over conventional flood irrigation methods, along with appreciable crop productivity increases, thanks to the application of water at the right place (root zone) and right time. Piped water facility connecting dams and micro-irrigation system in fields can help reduce water losses; they can ensure roughly 70% conveyance-efficiency and 90% overall water-use efficiency. There can be no better step towards bringing about sustainable water use in agriculture.
A case in point is the impact of drip irrigation on sugarcane and cotton cultivation in the water-stressed Marathwada region. In FY15, Marathwada accounted for over a fifth of the sugarcane area in Maharashtra. Since this crop consumes about 2,000 litres of water for every kg of sugar produced, many experts have questioned whether it should be grown at all in areas such as Marathwada. But the fact is that Marathwada has prospered because of sugarcane, with the mills creating several thousand jobs both upstream and downstream. Farmers, too, are unlikely to go back to growing jowar or bajra. It suggests that adopting better water management through micro-irrigation may be what is really required.
Jain Irrigation Systems Limited, the world’s second-largest irrigation solutions company, has demonstrated that drip irrigation systems in sugarcane cultivation can save around 66% irrigation water as well as raise crop yields by a third. Water saved through drip irrigation in one hectare sugarcane area can bring some five hectares under cotton. Increased sugarcane yields from drip irrigation, coupled with higher returns from irrigated cotton crop, will thus help augment farmers’ incomes and, at the same time, promote sustainable agriculture.
At an estimated cost of R75,000 per hectare for installation of drip systems, R7,722 crore will be needed to bring Maharashtra’s entire sugarcane area under drip. But in FY16, the state’s budget allocation for micro-irrigation was a mere R176.75 crore. It basically shows how our priorities in irrigation are rather perverted. Nabard is raising R20,000 crore from the market for completion of major and medium schemes having a water-use efficiency of
35-40%, but only R5,000 crore for micro-irrigation where effciency is 85-90%! Why not float micro-irrigation bonds for R20,000 crore or more?
The future revolution in agriculture is going to come from precision farming. Micro-irrigation can be the stepping stone towards achieving the goal of making Indian farming sustainable, profitable and productive. Can we expect Jaitley and, of course, prime minister Narendra Modi to take bolder steps in this direction?
Power, Joburg Water and Pikitup are one step closer to falling under the operational control of the Johannesburg municipality, Mayor Herman Mashaba said on Sunday.
“On Thursday, Johannesburg City Council approved a report proposing the initiation of a process to reintegrate municipal-owned entities…”
Currently, said Mashaba, “the absurdity of this situation is that the City is the sole shareholder of these entities, but they operate under the Company’s Act and are semi-autonomous of the City”.
The managing directors and chief operating officers of these entities report, not to the municipality, but to a board of directors.
“How can a City be responsible and accountable to its residents for fast-tracking service delivery when it does not have complete control over the entities that implement delivery?”
The mayor said he hoped the entities – including City Power, Joburg Water and Pikitup – would be reintegrated back into the City’s structures within 18 months.
He said the report, which was approved earlier this week, detailed the process which would be followed, including establishing task teams, conducting feasibility studies, and ensuring public consultation.
Mashaba said there would be no job losses, as employees would be incorporated into the City’s structures.
He said the move would also save the City money, as the current salaries of non-executive board members for the entities cost R18-million a year.
“This is what we need to do to correct the sluggish and non-responsive nature of our service delivery in our City.”
Pretoria – The furore which erupted over the weekend could have been avoided if the City of Tshwane had properly managed the compulsory water restrictions, Rand Water has said.
Water supply to communities west of Pretoria was cut off from Saturday, leaving residents angry and feeling like “second class” citizens.
“The city should have managed it properly to avoid confusion,” Rand Water spokesman Justice Mohale told the Pretoria News.
He said Rand Water convened technical meetings in Joburg every Monday and representatives from the city were always among the participants. The meetings discussed, among other issues, water restrictions, he said.
Mohale said all municipalities in the province participated in the throttling exercise, launched by the Department and Water and Sanitation in an effort to save dwindling water resources. Municipalities are supposed to take 15% from water supplied to residents.
Laudium residents had their water cut off without prior notice on Saturday, and this threw them into a frenzy, demanding answers and the immediate restoration of the service.
In his response to social media queries on Sunday afternoon, mayor Solly Msimanga said: “We are aware and working on the water problem in Laudium. The problem is a result of over-throttling from Rand Water as part of the restrictions.”
But that explanation was rejected by the residents, who said the city would have known before implementation. “We would have been warned and told to prepare,” a resident said at a public meeting to discuss the water situation in Laudium. The residents held an emergency meeting, where they said 36 hours without water, with no official explanation, was a sign of disrespect.
They said it was a service delivery and human rights violation and wanted the mayor to address them on the matter. The municipality acknowledged the lack of water in the area and dispatched 10 tankers of 10 000 litres each to the affected communities, adding four more by Monday morning.
City spokesman Lindela Mashigo said reservoirs had become low by Saturday. When water started trickling into the area Monday morning, he said: “The reservoir recovered a bit and managed to supply water to low lying areas.”
The high lying areas would battle until there was enough water to apply pressure upwards, he said. Night time when water use was very low would allow that, Mashigo added.@ntsandvose
Basing on the belief that access to clean water is a human right; a call has been made to government to scrap off Value Added Tax (VAT) on Water to enable every Ugandan including low-income consumers to also access clean tap water.
The proposal was made by students pursuing masters degrees in Public Infrastructure Management (MPIM) at Makerere University following their study tour to South Africa.
In May this year, a total of 22 second year masters students under MPIM visited South Africa and areas of study were roads and transport management, energy resources management and water resource and sanitation management.
The team that undertook a water tour study found out that 92% of South Africans have access to clean water while in Uganda, 67% have access to clean drinking water.
The senior monitoring and evaluation officer in the Ministry of Water and Environment, Josephine Apajo while presenting findings of the study on behalf of other students, said South Africa removed VAT on water, almost everyone can access clean water and this has among other advantages reduced cases of diseases related to consumption of unclean water.
“Uganda should borrow a leaf from South Africa and increase the percentage of people accessing clean water. One of the ways to do so is through scrapping off vat on piped water,” she said.
“Access to safe and clean water is a human right; everybody should be given water for free, this will help in addressing challenges involved in consuming dirty water like outbreak of water borne diseases like typhoid, cholera” she added.
In 2013 while still the Minister of Finance, Maria Kiwanuka reintroduced 18% VAT on water for domestic and government projects with the purpose of collecting sh8b in revenue to fund the sh13.1 trillion 2013/14 budget.
In addition, Apajo revealed that while in South Africa sanitation is under the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, in Uganda there is no specific ministry in charge of sanitation.
She proposed sanitation in Uganda be part of Water and Environment ministry.
This was during the MPIM study tour dissemination seminar held at the main campus and organized by Makerere College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS).
Umar Kakumba, associate professor and Dean, CoBAMS said the health budget is escalating every financial year; removing VAT on water would be beneficial because it means many people would be able to access clean drinking water and disease outbreaks would be minimal thus cutting costs on treatment.
He however noted that research is necessary to determine whether it is a tangible solution and its impact.
The guest of honour Dr. Henry Rubarenzya, the Head of Research and Development, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) said the challenges affecting the infrastructure sector are largely corruption, budget limitations, bureaucracy, poor quality infrastructure, high cost of the infrastructure and inadequate local competent and skilled labour.
To address these challenges, he said leadership and management skills take centre stage in addition to key capabilities required to make a significant impact to the infrastructure including innovation, public funds management, and human capital development.
“We have to deliberately build skills through continuous training, exposure, internships and rightful deployments,” he said.
On the proposal to scrap VAT on water, Rubarenzya said it is a proposal that has to be looked at holistically.
He reasoned that some development partners like World Bank are halting financial support to Uganda, government is looking for ways to get money and run projects in various sectors, therefore removing VAT on water would not be a good idea.
Water is on everyone’s minds, at last. It should have happened a long time ago, but now that we are facing ongoing water shortages, droughts and water quality crises, South Africa is finally paying attention to what conservation and water health mean.
Foreseeing this three decades ago, the WWF-SA’s Freshwater Programme has focused on a number of catchment-wide water conservation and community engagement projects in South Africa, several of which the WWF Nedbank Green Trusted has supported since its inception 26 years ago.
One of these projects is the Stellenbosch River Collaborative (SRC), which, in partnership with the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and the conservation organisations – Living Lands and the Wildlands Conservation Trust – is working on the restoration of the Eerste River catchment.
The polluted waters in the Eerste River, Stellenbosch’s main river, and two other rivers that flow into it – the Plankenbrug and Veldwachters – pose a serious health risk to the greater Stellenbosch community. This is also jeopardising the viability of the area’s key economic drivers, notably the wine and fruit producers in the Eerste River catchment.
The pollution and microbial quality of the river water (levels of human excrement and disease-causing pathogens such as E. coli) is not fit for drinking or irrigation. It fails to meet the export standards set by the European Union for fresh produce and the World Health Organisation and Department of Water and Sanitation guidelines for safe irrigation.
In response to the many negative consequences of their polluted catchment concerned citizens and stakeholders from every sector of the Stellenbosch community came together and formed the SRC. Launched in November 2013, its aim is to restore health to the Eerste River catchment.
The initiator and coordinator of the SRC is researcher Charon Marais, who is doing her PhD on sustainability and transformational governance through the University of Stellenbosch Business School, and is part of the transdisciplinary TsamaHUB doctorate programme of the Sustainability Institute.
The Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI) has adopted the SRC as an important official in SUWI projects. Stellenbosch’s Municipality is an active partner in this initiative.
‘It is all about what we call the ‘river connect’ – about connecting neighbours and communities upstream and downstream of the Eerste River to restore health to the river for every member of the greater Stellenbosch community,’ Marais explains. ‘From people living in Kayamandi and Enkanini informal settlements to big businesses such as Spier and Distell, the health and sustainability of the river affects one and all.’
The Stellenbosch Municipality is responsible for the health of the Eerste River and its feeder rivers. However, heavy sewage leaks from the Stellenbosch Municipality Waste Water Treatment Plant and pollution from the Plankenbrug industrial area and the informal settlements are continuous sources of river contamination, and have been for the past 20 years.
The true gravity of the situation was brought to the attention of the broader public through national media coverage when the Wynland Water Users Association, representing farmers, individual users, conservation authorities, and the Department of Water Affairs, took legal action against the municipality for non-compliance.
The SRC has played an instrumental role in bridging the divide and creating a space where the municipality can come on board and assume its role in a number of river restoration initiatives.
One of these initiatives is the Enkanini water and sanitation pilot programme launched in March 2016, in partnership with Living Lands, Isidima Design and Development, and a group of young women and men from the Enkanini informal settlement who named their project ‘The Enkanini Water Hustlers’ with the slogan ‘Changing the Flow’.
Christine Colvin, Senior Manager of WWF’s Freshwater Programme, who oversees all of WWF-SA’s water projects, explains that Enkanini does not have any formalised services. All forms of pollution and effluent from the community end up in the Plankenbrug River.
‘To tackle this with the community members, we are drawing on learning gained from the WWF Nedbank Green Trust Msunduzi Green Corridor (MGC) – a pilot project that is promoting partnership action between communities and the public and private sector, to address the rapid decline of the Duzi River,’ Colvin explains.
‘Now in its second year, the project is addressing the severe sewerage contamination and solid-waste problem in the Duzi, in partnership with the Msunduzi Municipality and the communities living on the banks of the Duzi River and Midmar Dam,’ Colvin explains.
The Duzi River frequently registers contamination counts of well over 10 000 year-round counts, sometimes above the 100 000s, when anything over an E. coli or sewerage contamination count of 1 000 is a health risk for anyone making direct contact with the water.
The MCG is managed by the Duzi-Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), which has established Eco Clubs at over 40 schools along the Duzi and a highly successful Enviro-Champs water and pollution-monitoring programme, led by members of the Mphophomeni Township adjoining Midmar Dam.
‘It is about people making the river their own, and about understanding their individual and collective responsibility to champion clean water, to report sewage leakages, to stop dumping refuse in the river and to discourage others from doing so,’ explains DUCT’s Richard Clacey, a local economic development and environmental specialist who focuses on the links between river health, community health and development issues.
The Enviro-Champs from the MCG visited their counterparts in Stellenbosch – the Water Hustlers – to share knowledge, grow water awareness and help the Water Hustlers think through how they want to manage their project. Six community members from Enkanini are currently leading the Water Hustlers’ pilot programme.
They explained that they chose the name ‘Hustlers’ because that is how they live; if you don’t hustle, nothing happens. They monitor the water quality; report leakages, burst pipes and pollution issues in Enkanini; and visit households to raise awareness about water.
‘Their commitment to this project and the operational support we are now receiving from the Stellenbosch Municipality is most encouraging,’ says Colvin. One example of this support is the painting and numbering of the manholes in and around Enkanini. This enhances municipal responsiveness when manholes overflowing with pollutants are reported.
‘Previously, there was no way of identifying the specific manholes and in an informal settlement the municipal officials often battled to locate them. Now that they are painted and numbered, it has helped to fast-track this process.’
Colvin adds that the Stellenbosch Municipality is also working on bringing services to over
1 000 households in Enkanini, including clean water and decent sanitation.
The Enkanini Water Hustlers and the SRC are receiving considerable support from Spier and Distell, who are also situated on the banks of the Plankenbrug River, downstream from Enkanini.
All members of the greater Stellenbosch community recognise the principle of ‘my neighbour’s water is my water’ and are working to achieve better quality water throughout the catchment.
‘This model could be used in many South African catchments, towns, informal areas and townships,’ adds Colvin. ‘Water pollution and failing wastewater treatment plants is a ubiquitous problem in South African and a key threat to lives and livelihoods. We need to find a way to upscale these projects for water stewardship throughout the country – it would serve all the people of South Africa significantly.’
By Heather Dugmore
Delegates from the BRICS countries have unanimously adopted the ‘zero waste’ approach to water and sanitation management.
This was the outcome of the three-day third BRICS Urbanisation Forum that concluded here on Friday.
Delivering the valedictory address, Union Minister of State for Urban Development Rao Inderjit Singh said that Andhra Pradesh was right in coming forward to host the three-day summit. “It is a Sunrise State with a number of challenges, and it appears quite a few ideas have come to the fore at the summit,” he said.
Mr. Inderjit Singh pointed out that BRICS was a unique group and the countries should extend their cooperation in the development of other countries in the group.
“Building smart cities is not just about infrastructure creation. It has many ingredients such as a pro-active society, environment, healthy habitation and lifestyle, and inclusiveness,” he observed. In his address, P. Narayana, Minister for Urban Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh, said that urbanisation should be viewed positively. “Urbanisation creates jobs and infrastructure. And we are already lagging behind. For rapid urbanisation, we need to do urban planning and urban governing. The Brazilian model is good and we are already thinking of implementing it,” he said.
Experts from China showcased the city of Shenzen, where only 6 per cent of municipal solid waste was being dumped in the open.
Xu Hayun, Chief Engineer, China Construction Group, said that 2,10,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste was being recycled daily to generate 4,300 MW of power.
He said that waste-to-energy conversion had been substantially enhanced since 1988 when only 150 tonnes of waste was converted into power. He further said that 94 per cent of solid waste being generated in Chinese cities was being recycled.
B. Chandra Mohan, Revenue Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu, said that Chennai was a leading example of resilience in water management, being the first city in the country to set up a desalination plant enabling use of 200 million litres of sea water per day. Noting that only one per cent of readily usable water was available for humanity as 97 per cent of water being in the seas and another two per cent locked up in deep aquifers, N. A. Buthelegi of South Africa called for adoption of appropriate technologies and response mechanisms to meet the water needs of people.
She said that in South Africa, 15,000 water ambassadors were pressed into service to educate people about proper water use. South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Settlements Zou-Kota Fredericks, while expressing concern over the growing slums and informal settlements in urban areas, called for ensuring liveable and sustainable human settlements in urban areas. While Joint Secretary from the Ministry of Urban Development B. Anand summed up the three-day meet, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, Ministry of Urban Development, Jagan Shah, said that urban renaissance in India was based on the five pillars of empowering urban local bodies, citizen participation, capacity building of stakeholders, effective urban planning, and augmenting financial resources of cities and towns.
After South Africa’s rapid adoption of green building in the commercial sector, the focus shifts to the housing market.
It has been ten years since South Africa’s rapid adoption of the green building movement – with eco-friendly buildings now being recognised as the standard for quality real estate.
Although terms like “environmentally-sustainable buildings”, “rain harvesting” and “off-the-grid innovations” have been bandied about for years in greenie or hipster circles, they have gained more credibility since green building initially took off in 2007 in South Africa.
Supporting this view is the number of certified buildings by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), which has risen to 200 buildings from one certified building in 2009.
Going green has largely been in the office property market. However, the next phase of sustainable building is expanding into the affordable housing market.
The certification of eco-friendly residential homes has been in the making since 2014 through the GBCSA’s rating tool called the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (or EDGE) for new houses being designed and built.
Since piloting the EDGE tool two years ago, the GBCSA is in the process of registering and certifying 5 300 residential homes. It is also targeting for 8 000 homes to be certified by the end of the year.
Speaking at the International Housing Solutions Affordable Housing Conference on Thursday, the EDGE managing executive at GBCSA Graham Cruickshanks said it’s targeting 52 000 green certified homes in the next seven years.
“We are hoping for green certification and green homes to be a norm in South Africa and to be business as usual for developers,” said Cruickshanks.
He said by 2020 the demand for electricity will rise by 46% globally, making the case for going the environmentally sustainable route strong.
The focus for greening homes is mostly for large residential developments –with the roll out free-standing homes, for certification, and less so apartment buildings and single home owner builders. To achieve an EDGE rating, housing units must demonstrate a 20% minimum energy, water and embodied energy savings.
The adoption of sustainable building in the commercial property sector in South Africa has been widely lauded by the international community. A recently published World Green Building Trends 2016 report, compiled by construction group Dodge Data & Analytics, indicates that South Africa has emerged as a leader in green building based on the level of commitments of green projects.
After South Africa’s rapid adoption of green building in the commercial sector, focus shifts to the housing market.
The country has the highest green building share, trumping countries such as the UK and the US, China, Singapore, Germany, and the historical green building market leader Australia.
The World Green Building Trends report expects more growth in residential projects in the green building market.
Private residential developers are already getting in green building act. Private equity firm International Housing Solutions (IHS) is forging ahead with its affordable housing development Ravenswood in Kempton Park, Gauteng – which is the first residential project in South Africa to achieve an EDGE design certification by the GBCSA.
The development, which will boast 188 two-bedroom green homes, has demonstrated a projected total savings of 250 000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and more than 10 000 kilolitres of water annually, in its design. This translates into a saving of almost R600 000 a year or R3 200 in utility costs for each unit by applying EDGE-certified energy efficiency measures.
IHS owns over 8 000 units in the affordable housing market and has a mandate of investing in housing developments that are valued from R400 000 to R700 000.
IHS’ managing director Rob Wesselo said in all its affordable housing projects, the mandate is to make them 20% more efficient from an electricity, water and materials point of view. He stresses going green doesn’t have to be expensive, as simple measures such as using windows that allow for natural light, installing shower heads that conserve water and using clay instead of cement bricks can cut development costs.
Green features at Ravenswood will include the use of solar hot water collectors, efficient water usage through the installation of smart meters, roof insulation to ensure optimal energy efficiency, and more.
Earn valuable CPD credits
We need to think about how we produce food, what we consume and what we discard, writes Georgina Crouth.
For aeons, parents have guilt-tripped children into eating their dinner because less fortunate children are starving somewhere in the world.
Judging by the bounty seen in restaurants, grocery stores, at markets and on the streets, it’s hard to believe half a billion people in the world are going hungry while the rest are either making terrible food choices or are gluttons.
By 2050, the world’s population growth is projected to be 10 billion (according to the EU Commission’s Health and Food Safety estimates).
Our resources are not infinite but the way we treat them, you’d think electricity comes from the plug, meat from the supermarket, our greens from the greengrocer and water from the tap.
It takes money to produce all that – money that could be used to drive development in other areas and help the needy.
Food production costs water, it produces emissions, reduces biodiversity and drives climate change.
Our marine ecosystems are being degraded, drought is wreaking havoc, forests are disappearing and millions of people the world over are hungry. We need to start thinking about how we manage and produce food, what we eat and food waste.
Worldwide, 2 billion people are obese while half a billion starve. In South Africa, the latest Discovery Health figures show 60 percent of women and 38 percent of men are clinically obese, with 14 million people going hungry daily.
Yet we throw away up to a third of all our food.
Dr Nadene Marx-Pienaar from the food retail division in the department of consumer science at Pretoria University breaks down some staggering figures about our throwaway society. “It’s estimated that 177kg of food waste is generated annually by the average South African (according to a 2013 study on it by the CSIR),” she said.
“Findings from the study done by the Department of Consumer Science at the University of Pretoria on food waste among Gauteng households done in 2014/15 revealed that fruit and vegetables outranked all the other food groups in terms of food mostly wasted by households. Second were cereals and breads (including pasta, rice, cakes and pastries) with dairy products (including milk, yoghurt and cheese) in third place. The fourth most wasted food type is meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
“The self-reported percentage of purchased food wasted indicated that 31 percent of respondents waste more than 30 percent of the fruit and vegetables that they buy, 34 percent waste more than 20 percent of cereals and breads, 27 percent waste more than 20 percent of dairy products and 20 percent waste more than 20 percent of the meat, poultry, fish and eggs that they buy.”
A 2013 CSIR study titled “The magnitude and cost of food waste in South Africa” found the costs to the economy were estimated at R61.5 billion a year or 2.1 percent of our GDP. “At the same time, 70 percent of poor urban households in South Africa live in conditions of food insecurity.
Food is treated as a disposable commodity, especially in developed countries.
“Yet almost one in seven people globally are estimated to be undernourished.
“Food waste does not only impact on food security, but has environmental impacts in the form of wasted resources and emissions,” they noted.
Food waste isn’t only what we throw in the bin though – it includes that which is lost during and after agricultural production; storage; manufacturing; distribution; and consumption, they say.
“The largest costs of food waste occur in food distribution (R19.6bn), followed by processing and packaging (R15.6bn), and agricultural production (R12.5bn). To meet the challenge of feeding growing populations and addressing food insecurity, massive reductions in the amount of food wasted across the food supply chain in South Africa are needed.”
Marx-Pienaar added: “Date codes are the most reported reason for wasting food. This is followed by poor product appearance and poor planning in terms of purchasing, preparation and storage.”
It’s important to note the difference between “best-before” and “use-by”: the former relates to quality and the latter to safety.
“Use-by” dates mean food can be consumed until that date – after that, if it hasn’t been frozen or preserved, it’s not fit for consumption.
If food has reached its “best before” date, it’s still safe to eat but it may not be at its best. Best-before dates are important guidelines to ensure food safety but they’re not cast in stone as many foods are still good to eat days – sometimes weeks – after they’ve expired.
Some foods, such as cold meats and ready meals, could become dangerous but other foods – such as honey, cornflour and sugar – don’t go off and the dates have the psychological effect of encouraging consumers to throw out perfectly good food.
Responsible retailers and manufacturers are doing their bit to mitigate this wastage: last year, their donations enabled FoodBank to feed 170 000 people with 3 350 tons of food and helped 550 non-profit organisations. That’s R23.5m worth of food reclaimed.
Lamees Martin, FoodBank SA’s marketing and communications officer, explained: “We collect edible surplus food from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers and redistribute this food to verified NPOs that collectively feed thousands of hungry people daily.
“As a recipient of food donations, FoodBank SA has a responsibility to its beneficiaries to carefully check all products received at its warehouses.
“Hence we have quality checks for handling food donations, such as checking all dates on all products and rejecting expired stock.”
France and Italy have recently been in the news for introducing laws governing food waste. In France, retailers are fined for throwing away food; in Italy, they’ll soon be incentivised for donating unsold food.
As consumers, we have the power to vote with our forks to reduce waste. If we all put more thought into what we were eating (and doing so sustainably), preparing real food at home (rather than buying processed food) and wasting less, we’d not only save resources but we’d also be teaching our children to prepare for a future in which there’s enough to go around.
Wise up. Here’s how!
Helpful sites: Visit savethefood.com for food storage tips; www.slowfood.com for information on responsible consumption and local producers (or find your local Slow Food chapter) and follow Love Food Hate Waste; Stop Food Waste; Ugly Fruit & Veg; FoodTank; FoodInsight.org and others on Twitter.
Slow in Joburg: On Saturday, Slow Food Johannesburg will be at the Soweto Theatre, with three events: a conference (“Growing and Producing Food in Soweto and Johannesburg: Urban Farmers Speak” and “Buying Food in the City; how to get a healthy and fair deal”); a market, where urban farmers from Soweto and Orange Farm will be selling their produce; and an “eat-in” (an Nguni cow has been slaughtered for a nose-to-tail competition between teams of chefs and local gogos – pre-booking only). To book, visit www.webtickets.co.za or www.sowetotheatre.com.
Read up: Staff scientist at the US Natural Resources Defense Council Dana Gunders’s book the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook offers suggestions to change behaviour around waste. Order at amazon.com. For a chef’s perspective, I can highly recommend Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie, which gives wonderful tips on shopping smart, cooking cleverly and wasting less.
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