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Working for Wetlands



A partnership approach to the rehabilitation, protection and sustainable use of wetlands

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Combining environmental and social outcomes, Working for Wetlands weaves together the wise use of wetlands with employment creation and poverty alleviation. Using the rehabilitation of wetlands as a vehicle to achieve these outcomes, the programme follows an approach that centres on cooperative government and partnership creation with landowners, communities, civil society and the private sector.

A joint initiative of the Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Water Affairs (DWA) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Working for Wetlands is housed within the South African National Biodiversity Institute. In this way, the programme is an expression of the overlapping wetlands-related mandates of these three parent departments, and besides giving effect to a range of policy objectives, also honours South Africa’s commitments under several international agreements, especially the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

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This illustration of cooperative governance and partnerships comes to life through projects that focus on the rehabilitation, wise use and protection of wetlands in a manner that maximises employment creation, supports small businesses and transfers relevant and marketable skills to beneficiaries. Using funding provided primarily by DEA, Working for Wetlands forms part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which seeks to draw significant numbers of unemployed into the productive sector of the economy, gaining skills while they work and increasing their capacity to earn an income.

Working for Wetlands is based on key interlinked concepts that ensure effective and sustainable wetland rehabilitation :
• Wetland Protection, Wise Use & Rehabilitation
• Skills and Capacity Development
• Co-operative Governance & Partnerships
• Research & Knowledge Sharing
• Communication, Education & Public Awareness
Ixhaphozi * mahlangasi * matzhasa * mogobeng * mohlaka * mokhoabo * umdzwelene * umgxobhozo * ummxopo * vlei * wetland


Working for Wetlands offers technical expertise to landowners and collaborates with local partners to set rehabilitation objectives with the intention of improving the intergrity and functioning of ecosystems. Rehabilitation measures address both the causes and effects of degradation.RESEARCH & PLANNING
Working for Wetlands also houses the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) project which aims to provide clarity on the extent, distribution and condition of South Africa’s wetlands. The partnership and collaboration between the NWI and the National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (NFEPA) project has produced sufficient data on the extent and diversity of our wetlands. The project  clarifies how many and which rivers and wetlands have to be maintained in a natural condition to sustain economic and social development, while still conserving our freshwater biodiversity. The NFEPA atlas was launched in 2011 by the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi. This information, which enables the planning of wetland rehabilitation on a catchment scale, is now available in the 2011 version of South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA).

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Working for Wetlands is a people-intensive programme. Besides imparting vocational skills, life skills provided to project workers include literacy, primary health, personal finance and HIV/Aids awareness. Education and awareness projects influence the programme’s diverse stakeholders through activities ranging from field visits with decision makers to the distribution of resource material.

Once considered valueless wastelands that needed to be converted to other uses in order to improve their usefulness to people, wetlands are now seen in an entirely different light. Today wetlands are more commonly perceived as natural assets and natural infrastructure able to provide a range of products, functions and services, free of charge.
A dry country, but endowed with exceptionally rich biodiversity, South Africa has a particular reason to value the water-related services that wetlands provide. By 2025, it will be one of fourteen African countries classified as subject to water scarcity (less than 1000m3 per person, per year).

Wetlands are not easy ecosystems to map at a broad scale as they are numerous, often small and difficult to recognise and delineate on remotely sensed imagery such as satellite photos. Although they are high-value ecosystems that make up only a small fraction of the country, they rank among the most threatened ecosystems in South Africa. The NFEPA project has used the NWI’s data to produce the most comprehensive national wetland map including about 300 000 wetland units covering a total area of 2.9 million hectares, or 2.4% of South Africa’s surface area. Although systematic national survey of wetland loss is on-going in South Africa, recent studies reveal that 65% of our wetland types are under threat (48% critically endangered, 12% endangered and 5% vulnerable). According to the 2011 NBA only 11% of wetland ecosystem types are well protected, with 71% not protected at all. This draws a clear picture of the wetland benefits that have been lost.

Everyone depends, directly and indirectly, on wetlands. In responding to the challenge of stemming the loss of wetlands and maintaining 
and enhancing the benefits they provide, government has recognised that, in order to be truly effective, strategies for wetland conservation need to include a combination of proactive measures for maintaining healthy wetlands, together with replica watches interventions for rehabilitating those that have been degraded. These objectives are currently being expressed in a coordinated and innovative way through the Working for Wetlands programme.

In the 12 years since its inception, Working for Wetlands has invested 530 million Rand (approximately USD 60 million) in the rehabilitation of 906 wetlands, thereby improving or securing the health of more than 70,000 hectares of wetland area. In the process, the programme has provided 12,848 employment opportunities, with 2.2 million person days worked to date. In line with the emphasis of the EPWP on training, Working for Wetlands has provided 168,400 days of training in both vocational and life skills. Teams are made up of a minimum of 60% women, 20% youth and 1% people with disabilities.

The rehabilitation projects undertaken range from stabilising degradation to the more ambitious restoration of wetlands to their original condition. Projects successfully trap sediment, rewet drained areas and stabilise erosion through activities such as building gabions, re-vegetation and plugging drainage channels.
Recent independent evaluations have confirmed that benefits from rehabilitated wetlands include improved livelihoods, protection of agricultural resources, enhanced biodiversity, cleaner water, reduced impacts from flooding and increased water security. The social benefits provided by Working for Wetlands include employment, training, enterprise development and the dignity of decent work.

Rietvlei Peatland (Gauteng)
The diverse Rietvlei wetland system is situated immediately upstream of the Rietvlei Dam within a 4,000 hectare nature reserve just outside the capital city of Pretoria. The dam has provided Pretoria with drinking water since 1934, producing about 41 million litres per day, or 3% of the city’s current requirement. Until recently, the Rietvlei wetlands were heavily eroded and desiccated, having been drained for cultivation and peat mining before the area was proclaimed a nature reserve. 
In recent years, the dam has become severely overloaded with nutrients and other pollutants, as its highly urbanized catchment has received increasing volumes of treated domestic sewage and industrial effluent resulting in the dam being plagued by blooms of blue-green algae, which cause bad tastes and odours in the water that are difficult to remove and require expensive treatment, as well as posing potential threats to health. 
Partly in response to this situation, Working for Wetlands formed a partnership with the Tshwane municipality in 2000 to rehabilitate wetlands upstream of the dam, with the primary objective of improving their ability to purify the water flowing into the dam. Interventions included gabion, concrete and earthen structures to control erosion, re-wet the organic soils, increase retention time of water and ensure even distribution of flow across the wetland.
Monitoring results show that the rehabilitated wetlands are improving the quality of water flowing into the dam (Masupa and Makhado 2006) with ammonia levels down by 53%, nitrates by 77%, fluoride by 24% and sulphates by 4%, compared to upstream of the wetlands. This reduction in pollutants entering the dam is contributing to reduced algal growth, thereby reducing the costs of treating the water for human consumption.

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Tshanephe Pan (KwaZulu Natal)
Once an important source of water, fish and plant resources for surrounding communities, Tshanetshe Pan on the Mkuze River floodplain was severely damaged decades ago by an illegal irrigation channel dug by a farmer. Working for Wetlands stepped in and in partnership with provincial agriculture and conservation authorities, restored the integrity of the
replica watches pan by plugging the heavily eroded channel. The project was successfully completed in 2005. Initial success was demonstrated within a month when several hippos returned to the pan. The tourism potential – with associated benefits for the community – is huge.

Lake Fundudzi (Limpopo)
A sacred site for seven local communities, Lake Fundudzi is a rarity as one of the few true inland lakes in South Africa. However, erosion, deforestation, and poor agricultural practices in its catchment are causing the lake to silt up. Working for Wetlands is addressing the problem through increasing the capabilities of the wetlands in the catchment to trap sediment, regulate streamflow and improve water quality. As with all Working for Wetlands projects, the 36 team members were recruited from the local community, indirectly benefitting more than 180 people. Thus far a majority of the eleven wetlands in the catchment have been rehabilitated.

Churchill Dam & Krom River (Eastern Cape)
The Krom River in the Eastern Cape Province previously contained some of the largest wetlands of their type in South Africa. However, it is estimated that half of these have been lost as a result of infestation by alien vegetation and destructive human activities such as large-scale cultivation on floodplains. The catchment, which supplies the city of Port Elizabeth with about 40% of its water, has been the focus of concerted action by Working for Wetlands and Working for
replica watches Water to rehabilitate wetlands and eradicate invasive alien plants. Since 2001, ten large structures have been built to combat erosion that  threatened the remaining large intact wetlands.
In 2006, the Krom River experienced its most severe floods since measurements began in 1938, resulting in heavy loss of life and property. The remaining wetlands played a key role in managing the floods, slowing the velocity and destructive potential of the floodwaters and trapping sediment. The wetlands proved crucial for reducing further potential damage downstream. The Working for Wetlands structures accomplished their purpose and the two main wetland basins emerged from the floods largely unscathed.

Working for Wetlands, in partnership with the Department of Public Works, Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and provincial agencies such as Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) and Limpopo Business Support Agency (LIBSA) provided assistance to Small Medium & Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) utilised by the programme with regards to training and business support. Contractors were also registered.

Since its inception the Programme has been providing accredited and non-accredited training to its beneficiaries focusing on technical, business and life skills. In 2011, the Department of Higher Education and Training called for a move away from single unit standards and non-accredited training. The Programme grabbed this opportunity with both hands and registered a comprehensive skills programme for its beneficiaries with the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA). This skills programme comprises a three-tiered curriculum framework of fundamental, core and elective components. It provides a platform for beneficiaries to receive skills programme training while replica watches creating opportunities for them to explore further career paths. It forms part of CETA’s skills programmes and learnerships initiatives to develop South Africa’s human resource capacity and create a construction workforce whose skills are recognised and valued in terms of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). Training has begun in some of the projects, and is being rolled out as the Expanded Public Works Programme completes site verifications that ensure that projects comply with their standards.


All our 40 wetland rehabilitation projects take part in various events such as World Aids Day, World Wetlands Day and other wetlands awareness activities. For all their hard work in wetland rehabilitation projects get to be acknowledged through the annual Best Project Awards competition.
Working for Wetlands staff plays a huge role in the annual National Wetlands Indaba conventions where they also present research papers etc.
The Programme also plays a central role in the organising of the national World Wetlands Day event which sees national and
replica watches provincial departments involved in wetland celebrations to create sustained awareness. This event is also attended by various traditional leaders, municipalities, MEC, Mayors, Councillors and community members who always show great support for the event.


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The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM), Koukamma and Cacadu Municipalities, and the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Affairs, Environment and Tourism (DEAET) have come together to support the national World Wetlands Day 2013 (WWD 2013) event that will take place in Kareedouw (Koukamma Municipality) on 1 February 2013 at the Kagiso Hall. The event is being replica watches organised by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Working for Wetlands Programme, the national Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Water Affairs (DWA), Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the Water Research Commission (WRC) and the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The theme for WWD 2013 is ‘Wetlands and Water Management’ and the focus of the event will be on raising people’s awareness of the interdependence between water and wetlands. This provides an opportunity to highlight the role that wetlands, as ‘ecological infrastructure’ can play in supporting the management of our limited water resources.

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Wetland Mapping Guidelines Draft


To download the draft of the Wetland Mapping Guidelines please click here.

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