A Climate Change workshop was held on the 16th of February, hosted by Msunduzi Municipality and supported by African Climate Reality Project.  Approximately 50 people attended and focused on the question: “Should Msunduzi Municipality ignore Climate Change?”

Atkins Nyakane Khoali, Environmental Planning and Municipal Town Planner, opened the workshop and welcomed the attendees.

An Introduction to Climate Change was provided by Dr Simon Taylor and he discussed insights and events leading to the Day-Zero concept, using Al Gore’s ‘Truth in Ten’ from The Climate Reality Project charts to illustrate the impact of these events.  His presentation demonstrated the dire state of the world at the moment as a result of man’s impact on our natural environment.

Attendees listen intently to Dr Taylor’s Climate Change presentation

Dr Debbie Jewitt conducted a presentation on Climate Change impacts on plant species and biodiversity.  She discussed the responses of plants to issues related to Climate Change in South African biodiversity hotspots.  Dr Jewitt also shed light on her study that was conducted on the impacts of Climate Change on the migration patterns of plant species.

Msunduzi Municipality Environmental Assessment and Compliance Officer, Kerina Singh says that many of the officials and business representatives in attendance were very interested in the information that was being shared.  “Local businesses don’t always realise that Climate Change is their responsibility as well, and counsellors have requested follow up Climate Change training and talks.  It was very encouraging,” says Kerina.

Dr Debbie Jewitt

Various programmes that aim to combat the climate crisis, encourage environmental literacy and foster partnerships important for synergy and collaboration also contributed to the workshop.

Dr Rudi Kimmie gave an overview of the African cities of the future Afri-Hub, which aims to add value through the creation of partnerships at corporate, municipal and university levels.  The hub intends to address responses to socio-economic challenges and offer implemental solutions.  Dr Kimmie highlighted the fact that this platform is an important opportunity for collaboration across African countries.

Dr Rudi Kimmie

Zama Khuzwayo

Following this, the secretary of the KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Compact, Zama Khuzwayo, introduced eThekwini’s climate change processes and policies.  She emphasised the importance of discussing Climate Change concepts in a target specific manner depending on the type of audience that is being addressed.  Khuzwayo highlighted the need to discuss Climate Change in non-scientific language when engaging with various groups such as counsellors in order for them to gain a full understanding of the concept.

Lungi Ndlovu discussed the uMngeni Resilience Project, which aims to increase the resilience to Climate Change of vulnerable and affected communities.  This is achieved through the project’s four components of early warning systems, climate-proof settlements, climate-resilient agriculture, and capacity building and shared learning. The uMngeni Resilience Project takes place across the municipalities of Msunduzi, Richmond and eThekwini.

Officials benefitted greatly from the educational aspect of the various presentations. “Some of the officials had not been exposed to this kind of information previously, and it opened their minds to simple things they could do, not even just in a business capacity, but simple things they could do to reduce their carbon footprint in a personal capacity, and it could really assist them in becoming climate resilient” says Kerina Singh.

Lungi Ndlovu

KwaZulu-Natal Food & Trees for Africa facilitator, Bharati Tugh, discussed the programmes that are currently being conducted, and explained how each of them is designed to address food security and climate change related issues.  “In terms of education, food security and food sovereignty, we are going back to indigenous knowledge,” says Bharati, “We highlight the importance of retraining our indigenous knowledge, and saving our heirloom seeds, and creating seed banks”. These programmes are all structured according to the demands of the environment, the beneficiaries and the desired impact.

Bharati Tugh

The highlight for Food & Trees for Africa’s Bharati Tugh was the volume of experts within the community and how the synergy between all the various stakeholders makes it seem as though the mitigation and adaptation won’t be such a challenging task.  “In terms of adaptation there are some brilliant programmes in place for research, and projects like the Mngeni Resilience Project, on the ground, do some brilliant work out there.  There really is a niche for everybody in this scenario,” Bharati says.

Kerina Singh is optimistic that the workshop is the beginning of an encouraging climate smart conversation.  “I would hope that all the members that attended will be more open to discussing Climate Change issues in the future.  In the past they perhaps didn’t see why it was important, but now they can see the importance of it in planning future projects,” Kerina says, “It’s very encouraging to see so many people from the municipality interested in something like this, the room was completely full.”

The workshop was well received by those in attendance and African Climate Reality Project looks forward to supporting Msunduzi Municipality and their climate smart conversations again in the future.

Photographer: Siyethaba Mhlongo – Msunduzi Municipalities Communication and Marketing