Not even the distance or provincial boundaries could prevent the uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP) and uMzimvubu Catchment Partnership Programme (UCPP) from coming together for the common good. This was evident during the recent Ecological Infrastructure/Catchment Partnership Learning Exchange between the two innovative partnerships.
The event was held in Matatiele, Eastern Cape, from 24 – 26 August 2015 with over 65 delegates in attendance.
The main purpose of the learning exchange was to provide an opportunity for these two partnership programmes to come together, share lessons, and grow through the exchange of ideas, experiences, challenges and successes. Although the two partnerships were both launched in 2013, this was the first opportunity for engagement and learning between them despite their many similarities. The learning exchange was supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Wildlands Conservation Trust, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).
Managing partners’ expectations
Through the chairpersons of each partnership, delegates heard about the history of the partnerships, their organisational structure, governance matters and the co-ordination of activities within their respective river catchments. The UCPP chairperson, Sinegugu Zukulu, focused on various lessons from the partnership and emphasised the collective action committed to by partners on the implementation of the catchment management strategy and restoration plan for the Mzimvubu River.
He however warned that the ability to manage expectations from each partner has become very central to the progress made by the UCPP. “While you might think you know what partners desire, it is still necessary to define exactly what their roles are. This is because partners frequently have diverse ideas about what actions they are expected to take”. He emphasised the importance of their quarterly meetings for clarifying issues and enabling open “discussion of responsibilities and documenting them in writing – always”.
Investing in ecological infrastructure
Sean O’Donoghue, the UEIP chairperson, explained how the coastal city of eThekwini would go “thirsty” if efforts are not co-ordinated in the management of the greater uMngeni river catchment. This was despite the city’s efforts to investigate possible engineering solutions to the problem and the growing demand for budget to ensure water quality provision and supply.
He further explained how investing in the ecological infrastructure can enhance the efficiency of water service delivery through improving water quality, reducing sediment loads, reducing flood risk and increasing yield through increased winter base flows. This realisation triggered the establishment of a partnership to foster better collaboration and co-ordination of ecological infrastructure investments aimed at improving water security in the greater uMngeni catchment.
Calls for a follow-up exchange
The learning exchange also provided a platform for delegates to share information and learning about their partnerships outside of the formal conference setting. This opportunity allowed participants to channel their energy, harness and build the collective expertise of sustaining the system of co-operation within their partnerships.
Learning exchanges such as this one are play an important role towards sustaining gains made, including those supported by the CEPF investment in the Maputaland Pondoland Albany Hotspot (MPAH). The opportunity to share lessons and make connections will help to sustain each of the partnership programmes in the future. There were enthusiastic calls for a follow-up exchange, during which the UCPP could view the work of the UEIP.
For more information about the two partnerships, please contact the following people:
Chairperson: Mr Sinegugu Zukulu – firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretariat: Nicky McLeod – email@example.com
Chairperson: Sean O’donoghue – Sean.O’Donoghue@durban.gov.za