The Eco City is based on the principle of poverty eradication through self reliance, capacity building, public participation and green transformation. It is active in lobbying for green laws and policies and aims to physically pursue an environmentally and socially sustainable alternative development path. Eco City is making local government aware of its environmental responsibilities and serving a networking role in bringing different departments together to work on Eco City projects. In response to worldwide encouragement for city councils to adopt Local Agenda 21, a key output of the Rio Summit, in 1999 Eco City has formed a public-private partnership with the City of Johannesburg and started to mobilise the Johannesburg Council to adopt ecological principles in urban design and renewal especially directed to the disadvantaged and unemployed people of Ivory Park. Here, the Initiative gave people the instruments to form co-operatives to grow and buy food, to recycle, to repair bicycles, to build homes, to use and promote green energy solutions, to become Eco-tourism guides and more than 300 jobs have been created. Eco Villages’ houses are made of alternative environmentally-friendly building materials, energy is conserved, water is recycled, human waste is composted, organic produce is grown in situ and people live in a cohesive village atmosphere. The demonstration urban eco-village harvests rainwater off roofs recycles all grey water and minimises water wastage. Human waste is composted and grey water is recycled for gardening. Organic waste is used for growing. Alternative sanitation is promoted in the urban eco-village such as compost toilets. Appropriate energy sources are used, solar power is the energy of choice, followed by biomass (in low smoke braziers). Ceilings and other insulation and correct alignment of homes contributes to energy efficiency, bicycles are promoted for transport. Organic vegetables are grown by community members and sold to non-growers. Recyclables are collected and taken to the buyback centre where they are either sold to glass, paper and metals companies or made into useful items. Jobs in Eco City are also ecologically sustainable. These co-operatives are also closely linked into provincial and national processes and indeed with international co-operative movement in Italy and Canada.
Eco City work is also breaking new ground in terms of promoting “eco banking”, which gives poor people access to money in novel ways and by encouraging loans for “geological home improvements” or safer buildings. All participants receive extensive training in their core skills, finance and environmental awareness. Eco City has run numerous workshops, especially empowering the unemployed, women and youth.
Objectives and beneficiaries
The Initiative gave people living in Johannesburg the instruments to form co-operatives to grow and buy food, to recycle, to repair bicycles, to build homes, to use and promote green energy solutions to become Eco-tourism guides and more than 300 jobs have been created.
Some 300 previously unemployed people now have an income. Because of over 70 farmers a significant number of Ivory Park residents are able to feed themselves with inexpensive organic produce (a luxury not even enjoyed by many middle class families in the rest of Johannesburg); people who previously had no transport now have bicycles; 5 youth have a bicycle shop in the area; 12 youths have a growing eco-tourist business; over 1000 school children now understand environmental issues better; over 60 local labourers have had work over the past three years building eco-homes, putting in ceilings and making a bicycle track; 50 people are employed in recycling waste and making paper goods; some streets are cleaner since waste is being collected and recycled; and soon some 30 families will be able to live in beautiful, eco-friendly homes in a safe and friendly eco-village. The organic growers understand the importance of eco-friendly agriculture and nutrition. They wouldn’t farm any other way. Recyclables are now collected because people know they have a value. People understand how much fuel is saved through having ceilings (by 25%) and solar water heaters (75%) .They are now demanding such facilities. The community was comprehensively consulted and educated through workshops and meetings. Community members ‘own’ the project and they run it through their own labour and efforts. The concept of ‘sweat equity’ is regularly utilised: for example, youths trade their work for bicycles. Co-operatives have been formed to run the growing and selling of organic produce, recycling, and bicycle repairs and maintenance. A youth group has been mobilised to learn other skills such as running eco-clubs, bike clubs and tour guiding. The former plays a valuable role in teaching the community while the latter will enable youths to earn an income.
Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation
EcoCity’s work is breaking new ground in terms of promoting ‘eco banking’ which gives poor people access to money in novel ways; for example by trading in ‘sweat equity’, and by encouraging loans for ‘green home improvements’. One problem that arose was that some members of the community rejected the idea of earth brick houses. They felt they wanted ‘modern’ brick houses. Even after exhaustive workshops explaining the ecological and cost benefits of earth-brick building, it was eventually decided that the community’s will must prevail or they will not ‘own’ the project. Now a technology has been adopted: ‘rammed earth’ construction which is more acceptable to the community. This technique results in a shorter building time than building with mud bricks since the bricks are created in situ on the wall of the house by using a wooden form. A little cement is also mixed with the mud. Other alternatives such as the use of a brick which is a mixture of earth and cement but looks like brick is also promoted. The community unanimously supported all the eco-technologies such as solar, water savings and passive thermal design.
So far over 3000 people have visited the programme through universities, local, provincial and national government and many organisations and governments from overseas. Many local authorities have adopted the ideas from Eco City and are implementing them in their local areas.
Replicability potential of the practice
A number of innovative projects are in place and working smoothly:
• Over 70 farmers, mostly women, are growing organic food for the community. Six agricultural co-operatives have been formed.
• 40 people have been employed in waste collection and waste sorting.
• 10 people are employed in making paper from waste paper and alien vegetation.
• An eco village consisting of 30 houses is partially built. Some 14 women have been trained in eco-building technologies like grey waste water treatment and water harvesting.
• A pilot project involving the Ecocity and Eskom, and using various energy efficient measures in houses in the area, is up and running. It involves installing insulated ceilings, geyser jackets, long-life, low-voltage light bulbs, and solar water heaters. Residents' reactions confirm savings in energy costs, and the programme is being expanded.
• Smokeless braziers have been introduced in an effort to reduce air pollution in homes and the broader community.
• A 6-kilometre bicycle track linking schools in the area is being built, with funding of R1-million from the department of transport. Eight young people have been running a bicycle refurbishment and sales workshop, importing used bikes from the UK, Holland, the US and China. Some 1 200 school children have undergone an edu-bike programme, and an Ivory Park Racing Bike Association has been formed, with 30 youngsters training and entering cycle races like The Argus and the 94.7 kilometre Johannesburg race.