SOUTH AFRICA –The Coca-Cola Foundation will be investing US$1.27 million to replenish up to 2,800 million litres back into nature and safeguard the country’s key watersheds.

The foundation is the global philanthropic arm of the Coca-Cola Company and has since its inception in 1984 given back more than US$1 billion to enhance the sustainability of local communities worldwide.

Through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), the foundation is investing in five projects to remove invasive alien plants from main water catchment areas that feed major cities and towns across the country.

Environment, forestry and fisheries minister Barbara Creecy hailed the initiative saying that it will reinforce the government’s efforts towards addressing water shortages that have already pressurised water system in the country.

“Over the next five years we must continue and grow our efforts,” she said at the launch.

“Firstly we need to work together to improve stream and river-related ecological infrastructure – by clearing invasive alien plant infestations, especially in mountain catchments and riparian areas.”

General manager of the South African franchise of Coca-Cola, Luis Avellar, said the company was also investing in providing cost-effective solutions to managing water security in the country. 

“These investments in ‘ecological infrastructure’ are designed to address issues of water security upstream in watersheds, in cost effective and locally appropriate ways, rather than prohibitively expensive solutions downstream, such as groundwater extraction or desalination,” Avellar said.

According to an IOL Business report, the Foundation will partner with the Nature Conservancy, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Living Lands.

While each of the projects is geographically diverse, most catchment areas are remote and the projects support economic empowerment and skills development in rural areas across South Africa.

In total, the projects will seek to clear more than 750 hectares of invasive alien plants and will employ 130 people, focusing on providing training, mentorship and job opportunities for women and youth.

The work builds on two other RAIN projects in South Africa where in 2018, the Coca-Cola Foundation provided seed funding for the Nature Conservancy’s Greater Cape Town Water Fund on the Atlantis Aquifer.

The Foundation also invested in catchment restoration in the Baviaanskloof of the Eastern Cape with Living Lands which was concluded in March 2019, successfully restoring 1,460 hectares of degraded lands.

This has since been expanded to employ more than 50 women and young people. This project will conclude at the end of 2019