At a recent close out event, hosted at Kleinkaap Boutique Hotel in Centurion, the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the Switch Africa Green project concluded the first phase of the programme that took three years to complete. Switch Africa Green is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

Switch Africa Green was initiated following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – that was held in 2012, and is part of the 10-year framework programme (10YFP) on sustainable consumption and production. South Africa was part of the project, alongside six other African countries. In South Africa, the programme focusses on three industries, namely agriculture, agro-processing and manufacture.

The Department of Environmental Affairs was the project lead, with several companies and organisations from the private sector, such as the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development (RECORD) and Green Cape, partnering to bring renewable energy and waste management to the agricultural sector.

What it means to farmers

The beneficiaries who benefit from the work done by the organisations mentioned above is at the core of the Switch Africa Green programme. The beneficiaries who attended the close out event shared their appreciation of the knowledge the initiative brought to both commercial and subsistence farmers.

For commercial farmers, it brought awareness of how much water and electricity they consumed and how they could reduce this with better management and renewable alternatives. For subsistence farmers, it brought development to their farming practices.

Beneficiaries who attended the close out event shared their appreciation of the programme.

Something as simple as installing a solar panel to power a water pump in rural areas, where there is no electricity, meant that daily collection of water from the lake became unnecessary. It allowed access to water for livestock and irrigation for crops, which was limited or impossible before. For those with access to electricity, it meant saving money on electricity fees and gave them continues access to power, even when there are power failures. It has improved their businesses and, as a result, their incomes.

Farmers were also taught how to sustainably manage livestock waste for biogas production, and can now cook food on gas stoves with fuel they produce themselves.

Bringing green inclusivity

What makes Switch Africa Green so significant is that although a large part of the project involved policy making, it also addressed the issues at grass-roots level; specifically going to farmers and providing inclusive development of the country’s green economy. Smaller provinces that do not necessarily have such strong economies were also included. Training and networking sessions were hosted, and a training manual was developed for SCP in agriculture.

The second phase of the programme was launched in January 2018, and will continue to bring knowledge of renewable energy and waste management to the agricultural sector in South Africa. – Ursula Human, FarmBiz