Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project

As a host city for South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup, the eThekwini Municipality decided to host a “climate neutral” event, and offset associated carbon emissions. The total unavoidable carbon footprint was declared as 307,208 tons carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. The municipality has committed to mitigating this carbon footprint through a series of local natural habitat restoration projects. This will not only achieve the stated climate mitigation objective, but will also result in increased local climate adaptation capacity, within ecosystems and communities.

In terms of the offset, a ‘reforestation’ project aiming to offset approximately 50,000 tons CO2 equivalent was established in the buffer zone of the municipality’s Buffelsdraai Regional Landfill Site. The landfill is situated north of Durban, near Verulam, and aims to create a natural carbon sink. The project was initiated in November 2008. By 1 October 2012 approximately 284 hectares, of the buffer zone had been replanted to forest habitat. The total area projected to be reforested is approximately 520 hectares, the balance being made up of woodland and riverine forest already on the site.

While the project is a ‘carbon sequestration’ initiative it is simultaneously ensuring the improved supply of a large number of other ecosystem services (e.g. flood attenuation, sediment regulation, biodiversity refuge conservation, river flow regulation). All of these further enhance the long term climate change adaptation needs of local communities, as well as short term resilience to dangerous weather patterns such as storms and droughts.  All reforested areas were previously either farmland (currently under sugarcane), with limited productive capacity, or infested with invasive alien plants.

The eThekwini Municipality appointed the Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) as implementing agent for the reforestation project at Buffelsdraai. This includes the roll-out of the WCT’s well-established Indigenous Trees for Life Programme (ITFL), as well as all on-site tree planting. The ITFL programme assists unemployed people, who are subsequently known as ‘Treepreneurs’, to set up small-scale indigenous tree nurseries at their homes. The project has engaged 685 local community members, as Treepreneurs, in the surrounding Osindisweni, Buffelsdraai, Ndwedwe and KwaMashu communities. Tree seedlings are exchanged for credit notes, which can be used to obtain food, basic goods and/or pay for school fees, at regular ‘Tree Stores’ that are held in the participating communities.

Since inception, the project has created a total of 374 jobs (24 full-time, 10 part-time, 340 temporary) for members of the surrounding communities. At regular intervals, mass planting drives are held, during which members from the local communities are employed to assist with planting the trees out at the project site.

Early indications are that the socio-economic benefits of programme are significant, with increased education and food security being reported (Greater Capital, 2011). Communities benefitting from the project are some of the most impoverished and vulnerable in Durban. The social impact assessment found that the first 2 years of project implementation demonstrated the following positive impacts:

  • Improved schooling for children
  • Additional disposable income to cover additional needs (i.e. transport).
  • Access to adequate food supply by project participants in two of the project communities has increased by 40%.
The project has highlighted the way that natural ecosystems support and protect human communities, and the way that human communities can support, restore and protect local ecosystems. This mutually supportive relationship is one of the reasons why the concept of Community Ecosystem Based Adaptation (CEBA) was proposed for Durban. CEBA is seen as an important and necessary extension of the existing ‘Ecosystem Based Adaptation’ concept.

Since initiating the Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project, the eThekwini Municipality has also established a similar community reforestation project at Inanda Mountain (west of Durban). Local communities around this site are rebuilding a 250 hectare coastal scarp forest, which was badly degraded, over many years, through uncontrolled fires and over-harvesting.

In November 2011, Durban hosted the COP17 CMP event, and at that time, launched the ‘Durban Community-Ecosystem Based Adaptation’ (Durban CEBA) initiative. The initial project site, situated in the Umbilo Catchment, forms the core of the municipality’s investment into mitigating the CO2 emissions associated with the COP17-CMP7 event. The first component of this is a reforestation project, implemented by the Wildlands Conservation Trust, at the Paradise Valley Nature Reserve. A concurrent large-scale alien plant control project is also being implemented at the site, through the municipal Working for Ecosystems programme.

 Reforestation Project