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WWF and PepsiCo announce new water partnership

A multi-year agreement between PepsiCo SSA and WWF will focus on improving water security in South Africa.

On World Water Day, WWF South Africa and food and beverage company PepsiCo Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are excited to announce a partnership to tackle some of the ecological, social and economic challenges linked to the food system and freshwater availability.

PepsiCo and WWF share the joint ambition to build a more sustainable food system to meet human needs for nutrition and continue to drive economic and social development without exceeding the natural boundaries of the planet.

In the process, the partner organisations will manage water risk issues relevant to South Africa and support the Water Source Area Partnerships model of WWF South Africa, with R15,67m being directed towards this work over the next two-and-a-half years.

South Africa’s Strategic Water Source Areas

Only 10% of the land area of South Africa provides 50% of our surface water, supporting 50% of our population, 64% of our economy and 70% of our irrigated agriculture. These are our strategic water source areas which are vital to food, water, economic and energy security. Yet, they are not receiving the protection they deserve, and face threats related to invasive alien trees, erosion and siltation and other land degradation.

Partnerships that mobilise shared interests and mandates to safeguard water source areas are therefore critical. The partners agree on strategies and actions to halt the degradation and improve the protection of the water source areas and create new opportunities for local communities, whilst building long-term institutional competence to strengthen water governance.

Northern and Southern Drakensberg Water Source Areas and the Sundays River

PepsiCo SSA will be supporting activities involving community, public and private partners in the northern and southern Drakensberg as well as along the Sundays River.

Given South Africa’s systemic challenges around water scarcity and quality, the partnership will support the development of the Northern Drakensburg Water Source Area Partnership, as well as alien and invasive plant clearing and rehabilitation in the area. This strategic water source area feeds water via transfer schemes into the Gauteng region, providing approximately 20% of the water for the region where several of PepsiCo’s production facilities are also located. 

Focus will be on strengthening the Northern Drakensberg Water Source Partnership to ensure coordination of the efforts of key stakeholders (landowners, organs of state, local government, and corporates) to build governance and improve the condition and long-term water yield of this water source area.

This will deliver measurable water returns in accordance with PepsiCo SSA’s replenishment strategy through landscape management interventions such as the clearing of invasive alien trees, the restoration of wetlands and improved rangeland management, at the same time creating economic opportunities and improving local livelihoods through landscape management interventions.

The uMngeni River catchment has its origins in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg near the Umgeni Vlei and enters the sea at Blue Lagoon in Durban within the eThekwini municipality. It supplies water to more than five million people including the urban centers of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and supports key production sectors such as industry, manufacturing, forestry and agriculture.

This system has been largely modified and degraded by human activities and is under increasing pressure to meet the growing water demands of the region. Due to the high level of dependency on the water from the greater uMngeni catchment, it is essential that the river system and its catchment area are kept healthy or rehabilitated. This is to enable it to continue delivering the vital ecosystem functions it performs, providing and purifying water, cycling nutrients and safeguarding habitats. WWF will be working with Upland River Conservation to undertake follow-up alien clearing and erosion control, as well as grass and forest patch re-establishment.

The catchment area of the Sundays River covers around 22 000 km2 and is an area where sheep farming and citrus cultivation are the main agricultural activities. There are approximately 20 165 hectares under irrigation schedules that are managed through various irrigation boards. 

Together with the Kouga catchment, the Sundays River Valley forms a critical water source for the industrial and domestic users in the Gqeberha (previously called Port Elizabeth) municipality. Among the activities here will be the establishment of a local indigenous tree nursery to support river restoration projects following alien clearing which will build benefits across the economic, social and biodiversity value chains.

Justin Smith, Head of Business Development, WWF South Africa, comments: “We need to invest in our ecological infrastructure in South Africa if we are going to secure our water resources, so we are excited that PepsiCo SSA is providing funding to strengthen the catchment economy, improving land management and supporting more resilient communities. We look forward to working closely with the company  in building and developing the partnerships in three of our strategic water source areas.”

Tumisang Matsheka, VP Supply Chain,  PepsiCo SSA, says: “As part of PepsiCo's holistic Net Water Positive vision to deliver safe water access to 100 million people globally by 2030, we are proud to be supporting programmes that will bring much-needed access to water and sanitation for thousands of people in South Africa. We are prioritising  water replenishment projects in high water risk areas, specifically where we have a physical presence. Partnerships such as this one with WWF, will help us reach these ambitious goals, and we look forward to rolling out these projects within these strategic water source areas”.

Southern Drakensberg landscape

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