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Responding to water risk issues within the agriculture sector, WWF South Africa has developed and launched a practical water stewardship web tool. This interactive self-assessment website is intended for both commercial businesses and small-scale farmers who wish to improve their water usage and reduce their wider catchment-level impacts.
Based on the international water stewardship standard, as created by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), WWF’s online water stewardship guide provides local and sector-specific information as well as pragmatic actions and tips to address each of the best practice criteria within the AWS standard.
Water stewardship is a long-term journey towards improving a business’ water use and reducing their water impacts – both within the business and across their supply chain, as well as in the catchment area of their water supply. Good water stewardship means paying attention to where your water comes from, how you use it and where it goes to.
The web tool concept came about following a WWF-SA water stewardship project in the Breede River catchment of the Western Cape. Since 2013 a few fruit farmers in this area have voluntarily worked with WWF, together with food retailers Marks & Spencer and Woolworths, around testing the AWS standard and reducing water risk across their supply chains and within their businesses.
The general sense was that early versions of the AWS standard were not easy to work through, especially for small-scale farmers and businesses who do not have dedicated sustainability teams to address such issues.
This new online tool is ultimately the start of a water stewardship journey for any South African farmer or small business who wants to be a responsible water steward. It provides a non-committal self-assessment to see if addressing water-related risks and impacts are achievable, partly achievable or not yet achievable. At the end of the five sections within the self-assessment, the web tool provides a percentage of how far along the journey one is, as well as indicating the certification points acquired for each of the steps completed if a business then chooses to apply for AWS certification.
Says Klaudia Schachtschneider, WWF’s Water Stewardship Programme Manager, “Much like a business’s water stewardship journey starts with small actions, this web tool is a first step towards interpreting an international standard for local water users. We hope it ignites conversation, and positive action, around the shared use of our most precious resource!”