Buffelsdraai Landfill Sites Community Reforestation Project

As a host city for South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World CupTM, 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 committed to mitigating this carbon footprint through planting of indigenous trees, to restore a local forest habitat. The restoration project will not only achieve the stated climate mitigation objective, but will also result in increased local climate adaptation capacity, within ecosystems and communities.
In November 2008, a ‘reforestation’ project aiming to offset approximately 42,000 tons CO2 equivalent was established as a natural carbon sink. The offset is situated in the buffer zone of the Municipality’s Buffelsdraai Regional Landfill Site, and is expected to be achieved over a 20-year period. All reforested areas were previously either farmland (under sugarcane), with limited productive capacity, or infested with invasive alien plants. The landfill is situated north of Durban, near Verulam. The buffer zone is 800 hectares in extent, but active planting is in an area of 520 hectares. The balance of the buffer is made up of woodland, riverine forest, wetlands and grasslands already on the site.

Over 800 000 trees, of 141 species, have been planted in 764 ha of land since the project inception in 2008.  Of these, 70 298 have been planted as a living fence covering 4.04 km (8.3 ha area). Seeds and seedlings of various locally indigenous plant species were spread in different areas of the site as part of ‘biodiversity enhancement’. This activity aims to increase the biodiversity on this site through planting additional seeds and propagates where there are gaps between the already planted framework trees.

Biodiversity_s.jpg ​Benefits to the natural environment include a marked increase in biodiversity (both fauna and flora). For instance, tree species (diversity) recorded in areas previously under sugar cane have increased from zero to 141, and the total bird species counted on the site now stands at 197.
While the project aims to ensure some level of ‘carbon sequestration’ it is simultaneously ensuring the improved supply of a large number of other ecosystem services (e.g. water quality, flood attenuation, sediment regulation, biodiversity refuge conservation, river flow regulation). All of these ecosystem services 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.



The eThekwini Municipality appointed Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) as the 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 ‘Tree-preneurs’, to set up small-scale indigenous tree nurseries at their homes. ​


The project has registered 319 local community members from the surrounding Osindisweni and Buffelsdraai communities as Tree-preneurs. Tree-preneurs exchange seedlings for credit notes, which can be used to purchase various household items. Other local community members participate in the project through direct employment for tree-planting, plant nursery management, IAP control and wildlife protection activities. The project employed a total of 46 local people (23 full-time, 19 part-time, and 4 temporary) during the 2020/21 financial year.  

Early indications are that the socio-economic benefits of the 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 of the project communities has increased by 40%.​ ​


TreePlantingBY_community.jpg 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.

Due to the success of the Reforestation Project implemented at Buffelsdraai, two other projects were subsequently initiated in eThekwini Municipality, one at iNanda Mountain and one at Paradise Valley Nature Reserve.
Tree planting by community members employed
In November 2011, Durban launched its ‘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 International Panel on Climate Change’s COP17-CMP7 event. The first component of this was 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.
​Please click here to view Buffelsdraai Information Booklet
Reforestation Project Video: https://youtu.be/4KpMCDAp_qE