Case Study: WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa)



The Working For Ecosystems programme facilitated by WESSA and funded by eThekwini Municipality is a poverty relief and sustainable development programme aimed at providing job opportunities to communities while improving the natural environment. The project, which aims to restore ecological integrity and resilience of ecosystems through control and eradication of invasive alien plants (IAPs), has been an acclaimed success. IAP populations in the project areas have already been significantly reduced, and the programme has created numerous jobs and provided skills and training to the unemployed.


Work is currently taking place across 1,735 hectares in six different sites.

eThekwini Municipality Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department provides guidance regarding the selection of sites to be managed. The sites are usually in high priority biodiversity areas, predominantly in rural areas that are of conservation significance.


As the Working For Ecosystems programme is implemented in environmentally sensitive areas, environmental best practice guidelines are followed in order to reduce any negative impacts to indigenous fauna and flora. Rapid response and regular follow-up allows the teams to ensure that emerging weeds are kept to a minimum and that areas cleared of invasive alien plant species can quickly recover to their natural state.


The removal of IAPs results in improved ecosystem services, such as increased water quality and quantity, reduced soil erosion, decreased loss in biodiversity,  and healthier functioning ecosystems that are more resilient to climatic extremes and associated impacts.


The removal of IAPs increases the availability of stream water and also opens up areas for grazing, from which the community derives a benefit. The creation of more resilient ecosystems may also result in communities being less vulnerable to climate change and more buffered against climate extremes and associated impacts.  Furthermore, new job creation increases household earning and subsequent increases in general support of families, and reduces the negative impacts of poverty.  The programme specifically targets youth, in terms of employment and skills development. This is based on the premise that the sooner an out of school individual can get work and work-based training the more successful they will be in seeking additional work and retaining a job. This fosters responsible youth which benefits that individual, as well as the community.


In the last financial year, 23,126 person days were worked and 298 jobs were created, 60% of which were for youth and 38% were female.


The programme has a strong sustainable development focus and goes one step further by partnering with the Small Enterprise Development Association (SEDA) which aims to equip individuals that aspire to owning a business, with the skills required for registration and operation as cooperatives (co-ops) in these communities. Individuals are taken step-by-step through the process of setting up and managing a business, and receive assistance with compiling quotations, invoicing, tracking expenses, bookkeeping, and registering on the city’s procurement database. This is essential if co-ops are tendering for other work offered by the municipality. Within the last two years nine SMMEs have been developed in the programme, of which eight have been developed and employed over the last year. The programme also aims to correct past injustices and hence makes a concerted effort to employ woman.


Building sustainable communities through a sustainable environment.

Lessons Learnt

One of the biggest lessons learned within this programme so far has been the selection of suitable people to start SMME’s. In the first few years of the project, individuals who volunteered to start co-operatives or other SMME’s were not properly screened and this resulted in the companies not been willing to go out and look for work but relying totally on WESSA to supply contracts. This did not promote sustainability for the people. As the programme has progressed so has WESSA’s methodology. We have started a week long screening process which identifies individuals with initiative who are enthusiastic about making their company productive and promoting a sustainable livelihood. This screening process is currently in place for anyone on the Working For Ecosystems programme wishing to become a business owner.

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