CAPE TOWN - A pilot project on the West Coast has helped empower 12 unemployed women through skills transfer and employment by clearing the Atlantis aquifer of invasive species.

The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF), Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (PenBev) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), along with other partners this week celebrated the completion of a successful pilot project for The Greater Cape Town Water Fund.

The foundation, as a founding investor in the water fund with its investment of $150 000 has helped clear 64 hectares of invasive plants in the Atlantis area of the Western Cape and empowered 12 women through skills transfer and employment.

The Greater Cape Town Water Fund is working with authorities, the private sector, NGOs and communities to restore the Atlantis aquifer, Cape Town’s largest.
By December next year the water fund will have replenished at least 10 000 000 litres of water to the Atlantis aquifer by clearing 64 hectares of invasive plants in the aquifer’s primary recharge zone.

Invasive plants such as Australian Acacias, consumer more water than the native Fynbos vegetation, limiting rainwater recharge to the aquifer and the fund employs local female job seekers to clear these plants.

Dorcas Onyango, head of sustainability for Coca-Cola Southern and East Africa, said the water funds are unique financing vehicles that invest in innovative and pioneering initiatives to manage water supplies.

“We are very excited about our investment in this Water Fund in particular as it will have a positive impact on more than 70 000 people in Witzands and Silverstroom as well as alleviate pressure and increase water security across Cape Town’s water supply system, which serves 4 million people,” said Onyango.

She added that over time, the Atlantis aquifer pilot project will be scaled up to priority catchments in the Western Cape Water Supply System to secure water supply.
The water fund will help catalyze a significant increase in aquifer recharge to help boost water availability by restoring natural vegetation cover at a large scale.

Louise Stafford, The Nature Conservancy’s water fund project director for South Africa, said alien plant invasions in the greater Cape Town region’s catchments are responsible for the loss of 38 million litres of water each year, equivalent to meeting the water requirements of Cape Town for two months. 

“The Greater Cape Town Water Fund works with partners to control thirsty invader plants, restore strategic wetlands and riverine areas, and thereby address these water losses,” said Stafford.

With the continuous need to remove alien plant species, a sustainable business opportunity has been developed for local female entrepreneurs supported through the water fund.

The Nature Conservancy has 29 water funds in operation and 30 more in development, all of which are designed to protect the upstream and aquifer water source regions that provide water to large urban centres.

Priscilla Urquhart, public affairs and communications manager for Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages 
Priscilla Urquhart, Public Affairs and Communications Manager for Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages, said that over the past 11 years, PenBev has reduced the use of water dramatically in the manufacturing process and has one of the best water usage ratios across the Coca-Cola system.

“We are very proud to be part of the Cape Town Water Fund which has made great progress in such a short space of time,” said Urquhart.