Ecosystem restoration, sustainable development and the provision of green jobs are key factors in achieving community ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change. EThekwini Municipality established it’s Working for Ecosystems (WFE) Programme with a philosophy of building holistic and positive interactions between local communities and the environment. Training and employment opportunities are created and these aid in the management of environmentally important areas, which contributes to how well these communities can become more self-sustaining and more adapted to natural disasters that may occur due to climate change.
The programme was initiated in late 2006 with funding obtained from the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and co-funded by eThekwini Municipality. The funding formed part of the National Government’s Expanded Public Works Programme. At the end of the term of the Programme (two years), eThekwini Municipality decided to take full ownership of the Programme and continue with it. The Programme funding parameters ensure that women, youth and disabled persons are well represented in the project workforce. 
Current Status of Project
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), a Non-Government Organisation, is the current implementing agent for the WFE programme. WESSA’s business plan was prepared in consultation with the Municipality’s Environmental Planning & Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) and relevant stakeholders, including the community. The EPCPD has prioritised project areas for environmental management based on the value of local biodiversity and ecosystem services. Relevant training and employment of people from adjacent communities are then implemented through the ‘Working for Ecosystems’ programme.

ClearingOfInvasiveAlienPlants .jpg
Clearing of invasive alien plants (IAPs) is the main focus of the Programme and the Service Provider ensures ground staff are trained on IAP identification and control methods.

The programme aims to restore natural ecosystems so that they deliver optimal ecosystem services. These services are critically important, not only for human livelihoods, but also for societal adaptation to climate change.  Controlling IAPs ensures not only improved water flow and reduced soil erosion, but the direct benefits to local people, livestock and biodiversity are significant. The project, now fully funded by eThekwini Municipality, currently employs 390 people to work in the following areas; Ringwood, Ntshongweni, Paradise Valley, Drummond, Hulett’s Bush, Ngonweni and Roosefontein. Three new site were added during the course of 2016 and these are KwaXimba (50 hectares), Redcliffe in Verulam (30 hectares) and Ilanda Wilds at Amanzimtoti (50 hectares). In overall, a total of 2205.5 hectares were cleared of IAPs with 190.5 hectares of initial and 2015 hectares of follow-up. This resulted in 27 666 person days worked.

Over and above the IAP control work in core project areas, WFE also plays a key role in the identification and control of emerging weeds, such as Pompom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum) and Famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus). In order to accomplish this, a small team, of no more than 10 individuals, is deployed. This small response team is referred to as the WFE Early Detection and Rapid Response (WFE-EDRR) Team. The WFE-EDRR Team is deployed on the basis of reported sightings of emerging weeds.
The WfE programme has a strong sustainable development focus and, together with WESSA and the Small Enterprise Development Association (SEDA), aims to equip teams with business skills required for registration and operation as cooperatives in the above-mentioned communities. This includes assistance with registration on the city’s procurement database which is essential if co-operations are tendering for other work offered by the municipality. Through this mechanism, 13 SMME businesses have been formed and are operational within the Programme.
List of SMMEs and companies sub-contracted within the Working for Ecosystems Programme.
​Company Names ​Services Provided BEE Information​ Area to which
​Umhlakuva Enterprises ​IAPS control ​Black Owned ​Ntshongweni
​Thinking Mvelo PTY Ltd ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Paradise Valley NR
​Umoyomuhle Environmental Services ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Huletts Bush / Roosefontain
​Vikelimelo Environmental Services ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Paradise Valley NR
​Mthini Environmental Projects ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Ngonweni
​Msenge Cleaning Services ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Drummond ERF 2 / Ringwood
​Lithlithemba Multi Services ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Ngonweni / Redcliffe
​KBT Creation and Construction ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Rooseofontein NR
​Indabengapheli Trading ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Ntshongweni / EDRR
​TaumbeNzimande Environmental Services ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Roosefontein NR
​Langalasembo Business Enterprise ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Kwa-Ximba
​Sindy Holdings (Pty) Ltd ​IAPS Control ​Black Owned ​Roosefontain
​Sbani Sethu (Pty) Ltd Newly Established and Registered in June 2016

In addition, WESSA has incorporated value-add in the form of academic research. Currently there are three academic research projects, all of which are at university Masters level. The current supported research is as follows;

  • Working for Ecosystems, a story of learning pathways emergence towards SMME development by Margaret Burger through the Rhodes University.
  • Investigating the role of invasive alien plant species on land cover change and the assessment of removal programs in selected protected areas using geospatial information by Yusuf Adams through the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Investigating the role of biomass (biochar - a type of charcoal, created through the pyrolysation of biomass) on soil fertility by Thagen Anumanthoo through the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Processing of Invasive Alien Plant biomass, through the use of a kiln (left), to produce biochar (right). Working for Ecosystems Programme, Paradise Valley Nature Reserve. 
Future Activities
The current funding is limited to use on invasive alien plant control, but the Environmental Planning & Climate Protection Department hopes to expand the programme, in the future, to again include community awareness initiatives, training of tour guides, litter collection, research and the establishment of indigenous nurseries.

 Working for Ecosystems