Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project
The Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project (BLSCRP) was initiated in 2008 to alleviate climate change impacts associated with hosting elements of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Durban. The proposed carbon offset was to be achieved through the planting of more than 500 000 indigenous trees within the buffer zone of the Buffelsdraai Landfill Site. Restoring the forest ecosystem was a identified as a way of "absorbing event-related greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing the capacity of people and biodiversity to adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change".
The purchasing, development and commissioning (in early 2006) of the Buffelsdraai Landfill was undertaken to accommodate the increasing solid waste produced from the northern suburbs of Durban and surrounding areas. The site was to receive municipal solid waste for 50 to 70 years. Historically, the land had been privately owned and used for sugarcane production for over 100 years. As a result, many areas were infested with alien invasive plants(IAPs) and weeds. All landfills sites are required by law to have a buffer zone between the active landfill and adjacent communities. The Buffelsdraai buffer zone would be a minimum of 800 m wide and 787 ha in extent and would shield the neighbouring communities, namely Buffelsdraai and Osindisweni, from the impacts of the landfill.
In 2008, the eThekwini Municipality made a decision that farming would be phased out, in order to rehabilitate the land to indigenous forest. As a result, the eThekwini Municipality’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD), in partnership with the Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) and eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Solid Waste (DSW), initiated the Reforestation Project. This decision contributed towards the establishment of a “Conservancy” encompassing both the landfill site and buffer zone, in accordance with the required conditions of the environmental authorisation provided. The Reforestation Project would incorporate “Ecosystem-based Adaptation principles as a means to improve resilience to climate change". The holistic approach of the eThekwini Municipality would address biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, rural development and poverty alleviation. While the EPCPD has led the Reforestation project, the DSW is the owner and manager of the land, and the WCT is the appointed implementing partner that oversees all tree growing and planting operations through the application of their ‘Indigenous Trees for Life’ programme. Small-scale, initial tree planting was undertaken in 2009, followed by more intensive planting from 2010 onwards.
The Buffelsdraai Landfill Site is located north-west of Durban city approximately 8 km west of the small town of Verulam. It is the largest regional waste landfill site and is owned and managed by the eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Solid Waste department. The footprint of the active landfill area (or solid waste disposal area) is 116.2 ha is size. Trees have been planted into 580 ha of the 787 ha buffer zone. The balance of the buffer zone would comprise existing grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and riparian areas, which would be restored and managed. Additional trees were planted to create a border around the landfill footprint in order to screen off the landfill operations (of the odour, noise and visual effects) and act as a firebreak. A wide strip of thorny trees were planted around the buffer zone boundary, to act as a “living fence”. This “fence” is an alternative to the traditional barbed wire fence, and is considered effective in minimising incursions by vehicles, people and stock animals into the buffer zone area.
The EPCPD has plans to construct a regional ‘Reforestation Hub’ at the BLSCRP site. The centre will be used by researchers, scholars, community members and tourists that will come to learn about climate change adaptation and restoration ecology in a local context. The centre will comprise an indigenous tree nursery and a building that displays sustainability green technologies, such as solar panels, water capture, storage and reuse, efficient lighting etc.
Geology and soils
A soil survey was undertaken prior to the rehabilitation of the buffer zone to determine the distribution of soil types. This would assist with identifying the likely historic distribution of primary vegetation types so that these may be replicated during rehabilitation of the site. The dominant geology within the site is Dwyka Tillite, a glacial conglomerate parent material that is base-rich, hard and resistant to weathering. The eastern boundary is composed of shale, sandstones and red sands of the Pietermaritzburg, Vryheid and Berea Formations. The central part of the study area is underlain by shales of the Ecca Group, Pietermaritzburg Formation. Eight soil forms were identified at Buffelsdraai. The historic landuse of sugarcane cultivation on moderate to steep slopes on site has resulted in the top 50 cm of the soil profile being completely mixed by land preparation activities as well as a net export of soil material by overland runoff and erosion of gullies. The impacts of cultivation of the past several decades were likely to have influenced soil formation.
Benefits from the BLSCRP include: the restoration of biodiversity, restoration of ecosystems for improved delivery of ecosystem services, and the creation of jobs and livelihood benefits for poor communities. Success at the BLSCRP site has resulted in an expansion of the approach to two other project sites - one at iNanda Mountain and one at Paradise Valley Nature Reserve, all of which offer the same adaptation and mitigation co-benefits.
With the planting of a large density trees, the Buffelsdraai forest habitat has the ability to store a high volume of carbon, thus playing an important role in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (a powerful greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere. The BLSCRP site would sequester 42 214 tons of CO2 over a 20-year period.
The communities involved in the BLSCRP are some of the most impoverished and vulnerable in Durban. By restoring the forest ecosystem in Buffelsdraai the livelihoods and resilience of people are supported. The ‘Indigenous Trees for Life’ model developed and implemented by the Wildlands Conservation Trust, was adopted as the approach for tree production. The approach encourages local, unemployed people, known as ‘Tree-preneurs’, to collect indigenous tree seeds which they propagate at their homesteads. The tree seedlings are traded to the BLSCRP in exchange for credit notes, which in turn can be traded for basic food items, clothes, building materials, used to pay for school fees and driving lessons. Tree-preneurs have also been able to build new homes and enrol in higher education programmes.
The restoration of forest habitat has provided the resident community with many other employment and skills development opportunities, including invasive alien plant species control; active tree planting; catchment protection; fire management and waste recycling. Ninety percent of people that benefit from this project were previously earning wages below the poverty line, and were considered to be amongst the most vulnerable communities in South Africa. Since the BLSCRP project was initiated in 2008, up until early 2015, a total of 455 jobs (over 50 full-time, 16 part-time and 389 temporary) have been created for local community members and there are over 600 active tree-preneurs.
There has been a marked increase in fauna and flora. As of January 2015, 595 476 trees were planted. Tree species have increased from 0 to 51, and the total bird species have increased from 80 to 145 over a five-year period. A total of 9 millipede and 22 mollusc species were recorded on site.
Improved ecosystem goods and services
The “ecological infrastructure” being built, in the form of a restored indigenous forest, will enhance the supply of ecosystem goods and services to rural people that are highly dependent on natural resources for their basic survival and safety. Forests provide ecosystem goods to people, in the form of food, wood, fibre and medicine. The ecosystem services derived from the restored forests include enhanced biodiversity refuges, water quality, river flow regulation, flood mitigation, sediment control, improved visual impact and a reduction in fire-risk. “Such services enhance the long-term climate change adaptation benefits derived by local communities, as well as short-term resilience to unpredictable and dangerous weather patterns".
The eThekwini Municipality has established key partnerships with households in local communities. The Municipality has also engaged with other partners and implementing agents, including the Durban Research Action Partnership (D'RAP), established with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN); an Environmental Education partnership with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA); a partnership with the Municipality’s Coastal, Stormwater and Catchment Management Department, for construction of a weir for water monitoring purposes; and a partnership with the Municipality’s Energy Office, which has provided photovoltaic and solar geyser technologies.
In 2011, the BLSCRP was selected as one of the top 10 global projects as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Momentum for Change Initiative. It has also received a Gold Standard Validation Certificate, from the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) for delivering social, biodiversity and carbon sequestration benefits at an international standard.
One survey found that the tree-preneurs were not sufficiently aware of why the reforestation programme was initiated, nor of its potential benefits. As such, better education for the local community members has been suggested, as a means to improve their understanding of conservation and climate change, as well as the ecosystem services that they may benefit from. The project ultimately also needs to assist tree-preneurs with becoming less dependent on the project for exchange of trees for goods and to actually start selling trees on the open market. The programme could assist tree-preneurs with finding ways to develop and expand the commercial potential of supplying trees to nurseries (including fruit trees and vegetables, seedlings and actual produce), establishing additional nurseries, and supplying to local and regional markets.
- Douwes, E., Rouget, M., Diederichs, N., O’Donoghue, S., Roy, K., Roberts, D., 2015. Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project, in: XIV World Forestry Congress. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Durban, South Africa. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.3577.9286.
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