Celebrating five years of growth

2018-12-12 06:00
PHOTO: suppliedDelegates from different stakeholders from organisations who form the partnership.

PHOTO: suppliedDelegates from different stakeholders from organisations who form the partnership.

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UMNGENI Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP) is a catchment-wide partnership in the uMngeni that was founded in November 2013 with partner organisations from provincial and local government, academic institutions, research institutions, business and civil society signing a five year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to find ways of protecting and restoring the natural water resources to ensure that people of the Mngeni River catchment have access to good quality water of adequate supply.

In the last five years, the UEIP has grown into a vibrant partnership comprising 24 organisations including the South African National Biodiversity Institute; the KZN Department of Water and Sanitation; the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs; Umgeni Water; eThekwini Municipality; uMgungundlovu District Municipality; Msunduzi Municipality; the University of KZN; the Institute of Natural Resources; the WWF-SA and others. In most instances partnerships require setting up institutional frameworks and administrative systems that will support the partnership in order for them to work effectively. Over the past five years, the UEIP has made progress in doing that through the South African National Biodiversity Institution as the centre of coordination for the partnership.

The relationship between partners of the UEIP has strengthened over the past five years, allowing partners to learn and work together, respect differences and bring along new organisations to the partnership. With the expansion in the membership of the partnership, the UEIP is becoming a “learning organisation”, taking advantage of the available expertise and capacities from the different partner organisations to create solutions to challenges and issues around protection of our mountain catchments, grasslands that supply our rivers, wetlands and other ecological infrastructure components. There is an underlying agreement to co-operate and work together rather than duplicate efforts or compete with one another as partner organisations.

The UEIP has strong research that is driven by the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Water Research Commission in collaboration with other partners. The main strength of the research has been its contribution to policy development. The UEIP was represented in the Steering Committee to support the second phase of the Continuation of the Reconciliation Strategy for KZN Coastal Metropolitan Areas, where its establishment was recognised as one of the key achievements in the area. Catchment care and investment in ecological infrastructure is among the key intervention options to address degradation, maintain water supply volumes and improve the water quality of river basins.

The UEIP’s fifth anniversary was attended by about 50 delegates representing the organisations signatory to the UEIP MoU, to reflect, appreciate and celebrate the partnership’s collaborative and coordination efforts over the past five years. It was also a platform for sharing success stories and challenges as well as pave the way forward for this dynamic partnership.

Among things that the UEIP will focus on moving forward as partners re-commit to the partnership, is building relationships with more organisations, developing capacity through training of young people. Engaging and partnering with the business and industries to find ways to improve and manage ecological infrastructure such that our living landscapes deliver more, cleaner water not only for ecological benefit but for the economic and social benefit of the people. There will also be a focus on engaging rural and peri-urban communities, creating projects that will benefit communities. Water connects us all, making sure that there is equitable access to water for our communities will drive the agenda of the UEIP going forward.

— Supplied.

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