Mogale City’s Bontle ke Botho project

By Felix Donkor

The word ‘nature’ is one of the more complicated words in the English language as it invokes a multitude of competing values, interests, and socio-economic and cultural factors to different societies. The challenge with defining nature also betrays the complexity in managing it due the competing interests amongst stakeholders as well as changing requirements. Furthermore the health of the environment has implications for communities; poverty, sustainability, equality, and health and wellness are pressing issues especially in the global South where livelihoods are heavily dependent on environmental resources. Consequently the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlights bottom-up strategies as vehicles for enhancing local management of the environment to complement top-down approaches. Some municipalities have rolled out grassroots community projects accordingly, for example the Mogale City Local Municipality’s Bontle ke Botho project and its various cleaning and greening campaigns.

Bontle ke Botho originated from the Clean and Green campaign promoted in 2002 by then Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa at the opening of the Legislature.  The campaign was launched partly in fulfilment of the objectives of the World Summit on Sustainable Development that was held in Johannesburg that year.  It is premised on the theme of sustainable living and poverty alleviation, which is linked to a number of cluster themes: Page ContentWater conservation; Litter and Waste Management; Energy Efficiency; and Sustainable Agriculture.

The campaign included a monetary incentive and was designed so that municipalities, wards and schools could compete for a monetary award amounting to R3.7 million in appreciation of interventions to clean and green their immediate environments. The prize money was ploughed back into existing projects or used to create new projects. According to city officials, however, although the financial reward system helped incentivise people to participate, it also made it difficult to judge whether communities participated for the betterment of the environment or primarily for the prize money. The focus therefore changed so that it is now on cleaning and greening with no monetary reward.

Image below: Park Development Kagiso Regional Park

felix02 Park Development Kagiso Regional Park _images source mogale city

One of the goals of the education for sustainable development concept as articulated by the United Nations is to build resilient societies by equipping all and sundry with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to realise a sustainable future.  Bontle ke Botho targets future leaders using “participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development”. The campaign has thus far mobilised learners, educators and school communities around the themes of water, energy, sustainable agriculture, and waste improve the state of the environment so as to create a better quality of life for all. Schools have been assisted to develop Environmental Management Plans to help manage and guarantee the sustainability of their environmental projects.

All the projects in Mogale City are on course to realising the core goals of mobilising communities and all stakeholders as partners in protecting and improving the environment; creating awareness and enhancing people’s understanding of environmental issues and the implications for their livelihoods; encouraging the adoption of sustainable living practices with projects bordering on poverty alleviation and capacity building; forming partnerships with the other relevant stakeholders.

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