Agency Development and Support

Change comes to Genadendal

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Recycling is offering a viable means of sustainable employment for residents of the old Moravian mission, and a long-term business for one enterprising entrepreneur. Across at the high school, the eco-crew is discovering career opportunities in the environmental sector.

15 April 2013

ADSboetie slide6 insideLocal out of school youth stuff bottles to build a youth centre

Setting out on the long and winding road to the Overberg on a crisp early autumn morning is a fine way to spend your time. The countryside is spectacular – mountain, river, lake, forest and farm – and then there’s the extraordinary rock formations, in mad colours of rust, pink and grey. Truly, Mzansi is God’s own country.

It’s the dry season, and the fields and hillsides are mostly brown, with sheep pondering among the sparse vegetation, and cattle sunning themselves in the early morning rays. Every now and again, a startling emerald green field bounces into view under the big, empty blue sky. This is bee country, with hives dotting the hills and dales – a stop at a roadside “padstal” for honey is a ritual.

Turn off the N2 and head ever deeper into the mountains, this is Theewaterskloof Municipality. It covers eight towns and a vast area given over to farming and tourism. But on the diary today is Genadendal, the old Moravian Mission that is home to about 5 000 people, and neighbouring Greyton, the upmarket little village of about 1 600, populated mostly by elderly ex-pats.

The Industrial Development Corporation, in keeping with its mandate of economic growth through its agency development and support unit, invested cash into the municipality in December 2012. This has been used for business directories, says Joanna Dibden, the manager of the municipality’s local economic development and tourism unit, and for waste management projects through the Greyton Transition Town initiative.

“There is no waste management project in Theewaterskloof, but we support buy-back centres, through which 56 people make a living out of recycling,” Dibden explains. Goods are exchanged for vouchers for things like groceries. Cash is not given, to avoid social issues such as alcohol abuse.

With waste management in mind, the municipality set up the 110% Green Forum, chaired by Nicky Vernon, the dynamo behind the Greyton Transition Town (GTT) initiative and its various projects. The forum was set up to talk, share resources and stop duplication. It receives funds from the IDC investment.

Much of the work is done in Genadendal, the poor mission inhabited by the descendants of the region’s first settlers. The little enclave is still administered by the Moravian Church, and there is no private ownership of land – a Transition Committee has been set up to look after the land for the local people. Genadendal was the first mission station in South Africa, set up in 1783. It is a picturesque place, set among the hills. The houses are old and crumbling, but well-maintained; and it is extraordinarily tidy – no litter lines these little roads.

There is a pride in place often missing from poor townships. But as always, cows and goats graze on the roadsides, and horses stand in gardens and hide from the sun on deep front stoeps. First stop is Boetie’s Recycling, a buy-back centre on the outskirts of the settlement.

ADSboetie insideNicky Vernon and Boetie Bantom at the recycling centre

Boetie Bantom, a Moravian, is an entrepreneur. He runs the recycling centre and he belongs to a six-member farming co-operative that grows organic vegetables for export. Bantom also has a small brick-making plant at the recycling facility. His businesses have proved to be viable, and receive support from the council and GTT.

GTT supports sustainable businesses, says Vernon, through mentorship. A professional fundraiser and events organiser, she hails from the Lake District in the United Kingdom, but has lost her heart to Greyton, where she now farms and mentors local businesses.

Boetie’s Recycling has been set up on a quarter of a hectare of church community land, as is everything in Genadendal. The advantage is that no rent is charged.

He collects waste from schools and businesses across Theewaterskloof, where he has placed containers for recyclables. When these are full, he is phoned to collect. He takes the waste to be sorted at his recycling centre, and it is sold to private companies – it goes to TWK Recycling in Grabouw, while the plastic goes to Walker Bay Recycling and the metal goes to Lorall in Brackenfell. Bantom also has contracts with Consol, which collects the glass, and Sappi, which collects the paper.

In all, he employs 14 people. Bantom stresses that his business is very strictly monitored by himself and the local police, and none of the scrap metal is stolen.

Another GTT project support by the IDC through its Theewaterskloof funding is the annual Trash to Treasure festival and its plastic bottle brick programme. Two-litre plastic bottles are filled with clean non-recyclable waste such as chip packets. Once solidly filled, these are used for building – toilets were built of them for the Trash to Treasure festival. At present, it is paying 10c a bottle brick to local youth to build a youth centre on the grounds of the Red Cross in Greyton. The money either goes to the families, or to the youth group, wherever the need is greater.

ADSboetie inside2A brightly painted recycle bin at Emil Weder High School

Other projects run by GTT are recycling workshops at schools, such as Emil Weder High School in Genadendal, where the Eco Crew has proved to be good medicine for the students. Many of them are turning to the crew instead of dubious activities for entertainment, and to fill their days, says Deidre Erasmus, the teacher responsible for running the programme at the school and liaising with GTT.

At present the school is working towards its Eco-School accreditation with Wessa, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa.

The students are taught about recycling and vegetable gardening, using what they have available. For example, seedlings are grown in tins, old tyres are used for planters. Intervention and assistance comes from students from Schumacher College in the United Kingdom and Hans College in Holland, Vernon says.

The schoolchildren are shown a better way of living, through regular camps in the bush, outreach visits, and clean ups in other Theewaterskloof towns. The eco crew has had a massive impact on the student’s lives, Erasmus points out. “There has been significant change in terms of socialisation. They are involved in fund raising and have gained huge confidence. It also keeps the children busy, and has opened their eyes to career opportunities in the environmental sector.”

Emil Weder is a non-fee paying school, which also offers boarding facilities. It has a bus company that it runs as a business to finance the school’s needs.

Nicky Vernon and Boetie Bantom at the recycling centre

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