On the fringe of the ever expanding city of Johannesburg, there is a community project that is working to maintain a green neighbourhood, and its efforts have been recognised in this year’s Mail & Guardian Greening the Future.
The Green Neighbourhood Project was established by the Greater Kyalami Conservancy and is based in the peri-urban Kyalami Agricultural Holdings between Fourways, Diepsloot and Midrand in the north of Johannesburg. It is a sensitive environment with many open spaces, and it is also home to the hub of equestrian sport and industry in the country.
The project, established in October 2012, aims to create a truly green neighbourhood which is sustainable, environmentally-friendly and ecologically responsible, and this is achieved through co-operation and collaboration. Working with eight residents’ associations as well as active farms, equestrian yards, residential estates and businesses; the project has earned the conservancy’s project the award for Community Conservation in Greening the Future 2016.
This is an award given to community groups or organisations that make a sustainable difference to communities and environments. The Green Neigbourhood Project aims to do just this, by creating a ‘green neighbourhood’ which is in-line with the City of Joburg’s sustainability goals.
Chairperson of the Greater Kyalami Conservancy, Kristin Kallesen explained that a ‘green neighbourhood’ is an internationally recognised concept and described how it is able to alleviate climate change pressures by creating healthy, sustainable and energy efficient communities. “This project encourages holistic community development where: public and non-motorised transport, healthy living, energy efficiency, sustainable practices and the protection of open space are the guiding principles,” Kallesen said.
The achievements of this project in not only creating open spaces but also engaging the community are key to the importance of open spaces in cities, as, according to academics G. Davies and R. Wynberg, who, wrote in Landscape disturbance in Mediterranean-type eco-systems: An overview, “‘Green lungs’ provide humans with physical and psychological relief from the pressures of urban life.”
As the website, Healthy Parks Healthy People Central states, the cities that are considered most ‘livable’ are those that are known for their open spaces, such as London’s Hyde Park and New York’s Central Park.
Kallesen explained that the Green Neighbourhood Project focuses on identifying endangered and pressured species; protecting the environment, such as the corridors where the species can be found; and, educating residents and businesses on environmental best practices regarding land use. She also said it was important for the project to recognise the needs and pressures of the neighbouring communities to the Kyalami area and to find ways to support one another.
In an attempt to achieve these goals, the project was successful in getting the Kyalami area recognised as a Special Management Zone – one of five areas in Gauteng which require special environmental management. Kallesen further described one of their conservation achievements as studying the Red-listed African Grass-Owls in the conservancy. “We confirmed five nesting sites this breeding season with six chicks hatched,” she said.
She further noted that the Greater Kyalami Conservancy was gaining respect with well-recognised environmental organisations and said that they looked forward to building on the success of the award. “Our approach is to work with anyone who has the environment’s best interest at heart. We collaborate with a diverse group of people and organisations from all walks of life and believe this is the cornerstone for a sustainable environment – where all people, wildlife and the ecosystem are treated equally and with respect,” she said.
She described the challenges confronting the northern suburbs of Johannesburg as experiencing environmental pollution and a loss of biodiversity from rampant development. “We would like to see a master plan created for the area which meets the needs of the affected communities in terms of transport, sustainable jobs and development while protecting the environmentally sensitive areas,” Kallesen explained.
“We would love to build on the community support as well as collaboration with neighbouring communities.”
Kallesen believed that the Greening the Future award would raise awareness of the work the Greater Kyalami Conservancy does and that it would raise the community’s enthusiasm but she also hoped it would encourage others to do the same in their own neighbourhoods. “We feel the community project is an exciting one and can be an example for other neighbourhoods who want to be eco-friendly,” she said.
The conservancy’s Anton van Niekerk added that the award gave the conservancy and its partners recognition. “This goes a long way to giving the organisation the credibility that the work and input they give is valid and a positive influence,” said van Niekerk.
– Caxton News Service