OPERATIONS REPORT APRIL 2020 TO MARCH 2021

Aug 18, 2021 | All Resources, Board Comms, Operations Reports

18 August 2021

Introduction


As a consequence of Covid-19, the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) could not be
organised. Instead of the AGM, the GCBR prepared an emailer which was sent to all valid
members on 13 August 2020 and which comprised an Opinion Poll where members were
invited to submit their views on governance matters pertinent to the GCBR, as well as
confirming the mandate of the Board of Directors.
As the pandemic continues to disrupt usual business activities, the Board has elected not to
hold an AGM in 2021.


Due to the nature of the virtual AGM in 2020, no Operations Report was compiled. Feedback
on the GCBR’s projects and performance were historically presented in person at the AGM and
documented in the Minutes, but as a consequence of not holding an AGM, no report was
prepared.


This report serves as a summary of activities and the GCBR’s focus for the period 1 April 2020
to 31 March 2021. It should be read in conjunction with the Chairman’s 2021 report which is
available at https://bit.ly/ChairmansReport2021.
It has often been said that you should not look in the rear view mirror, because you are not
going that way. However, in reviewing the last three years of our Chairmen’s reports it is
insightful and most encouraging to see how far the GCBR has come and grown.
We are by definition a learning and self-adjusting organisation and in that context, we hope to
enlighten you on the nature of our projects, our performance and our future planned
endeavours. The former two cover the period indicated in this report and the latter is
communicated in the Chairman’s 2021 report.

General context


Changing landscapes, transitions, uncertainty and opportunity


Along with the rest of the world, the last eighteen months have been a tumultuous and challenging
time, but also a time of great learning and of realising potential in the face of adversity.
Under pre-pandemic conditions, 2021 would always have been a year of transition for the GCBR.
Having moved in 2018 into what was labelled “GCBR 2.0” – the upscaling of staff, projects and
activities and a more formal organisational structure – the culmination of which period in 2021
would again call for a period of transition, moving into “GCBR 2.1”.
This transition and its related activities have thus commenced this year in a landscape of extreme
uncertainty and challenges due to the pandemic.


The transition into GCBR 2.1 involves the reorganising and prioritisation of GCBR projects and
activities towards a greater spatial and social impact, realised through a more strategic operational
and institutional focus.


The GCBR staff has spent much time over the last six months preparing and planning for these
changes, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year. Whilst the level of uncertainty
created by the pandemic across multiple sectors make the planning and strategising challenging, it
arguably came at the right time – the GCBR has been focused on building an organisation that is
resilient and adaptable. The social and institutional landscape of uncertainty created by the
pandemic has provided the opportunity for the GCBR to experience first-hand the challenges faced
by an ever changing context, and to use this experience in re-designing an organisation that will be
required to operate in a changing landscape.


As can be seen throughout this report, overall the projects have adapted very well to the challenges
faced by the pandemic, with the exception of projects involving the schools and municipalities, which
have suffered greater governmental restrictions. These challenges have still however brought
learning opportunities with them, and adaptations to mitigate these challenges can be included in
the future design of these projects.


The GCBR, as always, remains a learning organisation, and the global pandemic has indeed provided
a period of great learning and growth.

Executive summary of projects – values since project inception
(2018)


Organisational development


• 9 large projects and 12 small projects have been managed over the last 3.5 years
• Full staff complement: 11 people directly employed and 107 people sub-contracted
• 7 different funding streams over the last 3.5 years (comprising 12 separate grants)
• Marketing efforts focused on making strategic connections for leverage


Goukou resilient river


• 1 004 ha cleared of invasive alien plants (IAP)
• 55 individuals employed through the project
• 15 123 person days worked to date
• Rehabilitation and research trials commenced
• 250 indigenous trees planted out (in-field)


Jobs for carbon


• 319 ha spekboom planted (300 915 spekboom plants planted)
• 304 723 seedlings cultivated in nursery
• 23 154 person days worked (including 464 training person days)
• 39 individuals employed through the project


WaterWise ways


• 2 871 households audited, leaks fixed in 1 862 houses
• 2 181 leaks fixed
• 5 104 person days worked
• 43 community workshops held (attended by 1 250 households)
• Full artificial wetland installed and functioning
• 24 individuals employed through the project (over the 3.5 years)


Gouritz ecological corridors


• 42 landowners engaged
• Landowner participation level of commitment system in place (rating system)
• Landowners actively seeking assistance from the project
• Camera traps capturing an array of different fauna (assisting in the species monitoring for
corridors)
• Biocontrol agents released in strategic areas to control IAP
• 61 161 Ha covered in the project thus far
• IAP clearing completed in one strategic wetland

Vanwyksdorp development institute


• 24 courses held
• 9 different course-types
• 299 people trained
• 951 training days completed


GCBR and local authorities


• 57 projects and reports submitted to integrated development plans (IDPs)
• 48 of these included on the IDPs
• 165 visits/ meetings with local municipalities
• 10 (of 10) municipalities in GCBR engaged with and working relationships established


Environmental clubs


• 8 schools participating in the programme
• 503 learners have been through the programme
• 3 200 learners indirectly benefitting from the programme
• 72 school visits; 9 camps and hikes; 14 workshops

Goukou resilient river project (GRR)


The GRR is located on the outskirts of a small agriculture-based town, with land use dedicated
predominantly to cattle and feed crops.


Farming in this area, as in most of South Africa is an inter-generational practice, and changing land
management practices is therefore often very challenging as the modus operandi has been firmly
entrenched over generations. Eradicating IAP on private land is about getting the landowners to
understand the threat posed by IAP and to take personal and financial responsibility for assisting
with clearing (with follow-up work for example).


Educating landowners is therefore key to successfully implementing the GRR, but it takes time and
perseverance, and indeed foundational to this is establishing a good reputation within the
community. The GRR has been successful in this, and is already being recognised in the community
for the work the project is doing.

For the past year and a half the project has managed to navigate the challenges presented by the
pandemic, which at times placed a burden through increasing costs – for example, during peak
infection periods field operations teams would need to drive double trips as the transport capacity of
the vehicles was reduced, or team members would need to self-isolate occasionally, reducing the
capacity of in-field labour. Despite these and other challenges the project has managed to stay on
track and make up the budget losses.


Adaptation has remained a key tenet of the success of the project, both in terms of the field work and
in dealing with landowners and stakeholders.


The project has also established a good annual work schedule with the local branch of CapeNature (a
Government Environment Agency) in which the contracting teams’ time (for the clearing operations)
is equally distributed between the latter and GCBR throughout the year. This has helped ensure that
the contractors have continuous work throughout the year.


Below : IAP clearing in riparian areas – steep and difficult terrain makes the work more
challenging.

Below: Selective clearing in densely invested
riparian areas

Operations Report 31 March 2021

The GRR is now well established in the area, with project operations taking place on multiple
properties, belonging to 11 different landowners.
The nursery is also well established- having produced 3700 shrubs and trees and approximately
15 000 Vetiver plants – and remains a key feature of the project.

The 5 stages of the nursery plants’ cycle: (1.) Sowing (2.) Seedling transplant from seed trays into
starting pot (3.)Period of growth in starting pots (4.) Transplant from starting pots to 4 kg bags (5.)
Final phase: hardening off before planting in field

Jobs for carbon project (J4C)


J4C operations take place on the farm land surrounding the towns of Vanwyksdorp and Calitzdorp.
Given that many of the farmers in the Vanwyksdorp area are no longer actively farming (with
livestock) it has been relatively easy to get buy-in from landowners to restore their land with
spekboom, as there are no competing activities for this land.


Over the years J4C has also established a very good reputation in the community and beyond, which
has increasingly made it even easier to gain participants on the project.


The global Covid-19 pandemic caused much strain on the local community, as the national lockdown
and new regulations under the National State of Disaster resulted in widespread loss of income in
Vanwyksdorp (as throughout South Africa, and the world). In Vanwyksdorp, an already marginal
community, this pushed many households into complete destitution, including all 24 members of the
LandCare teams (the teams under supervision by J4C since August 2019). LandCare is a national
government programme to develop and implement integrated approaches to natural resource
management in South Africa.


The J4C management and staff – as both community members and as part of a well-respected
programme in the area – could not allow their community to go unsupported. Fencing jobs were
therefore created for the men on the LandCare teams, and donations allowed for daily food (a soup
kitchen) for these teams and the local crèche, with the women on the LandCare teams taking turns
to do the cooking.


The pandemic re-emphasised the J4C and the GCBR’s role as members of the communities in which
they operate, and as stewards for these communities and their environment.


The J4C team and LandCare members in the Kamma river doing Stinkbean eradication –pictured here on their way home after finishing a hard week of work under extremely hot conditions.

In the latter half of 2020 the J4C operations were fortunately less affected by the pandemic, and in
conjunction with the LandCare teams the J4C teams were able to assist the Gouritz ecological
corridors project with a critical invasive alien plant clearing project in the Kamma River (an
infestation of a relatively new invasive species was discovered in one of the last remaining natural
wetlands in the Klein Karoo). The operations were a great success, both ecologically and
institutionally: the actions prevented the further spread of an invasive plant which was about to seed,
and the effort was the first collaborative operation undertaken between two GCBR projects.
The J4C team and LandCare members in the
Kamma river doing Stinkbean eradication –
pictured here on their way home after finishing a
hard week of work under extremely hot
conditions.

The J4C project underwent an institutional change in the early part of 2021, as the project has
officially been registered as a stand-alone NPO. The institutional shift from the GCBR was
undertaken in order to allow the J4C staff and management to build a more autonomous entity that
could be a service provider to the GCBR, but also seek its own funding and projects.
In becoming a stand-alone entity the J4C staff and management have been afforded the opportunity
to play a more pivotal role in the decision-making of their project and livelihoods.

J4C teams doing what they do best:
planting spekboom

WaterWise ways project (WWW)


The WWW project is managed through Trapsuutjies Projects, a local social enterprise.


The project office is based in the town of Oudtshoorn, the largest town in the Klein Karoo, dependent
mostly on farming and tourism. Being a semi-arid region, the area has always been associated with
water scarcity. Climate change has brought persisting drought cycles in recent years which have
devastated much of the region’s agricultural economy. The issue of water scarcity has therefore
become a defining factor and challenge in the social and economic context of the region: river health,
domestic and agricultural usage, and the treatment of waste water are all focus points in the WWW
project, which seeks to address the water scarcity challenge in an ever-changing social and
environmental context.

Below: Good vegetative growth and root development in a constructed artificial wetland. Pruning one raceway a week, using a simple effective method developed by the team to ensure cost effectiveness.

Increasing unemployment and poverty – as throughout South Africa – also remain key issues in the
Klein Karoo communities.


The Covid-19 pandemic played a decisive role in the project context during 2020 – not only
operationally, but also in terms of future planning and progress towards project autonomy (as has
been the end point towards which the project has been working). The pandemic prevented the Fix-
‘n-Learn teams from hosting workshops or fixing leaks in houses during national lockdowns, and
subsequent to this, fear within the communities post-lockdowns meant that often times entrance into
community households (in order to fix leaks) was barred, even when operations were legally allowed
to resume.

In the first half of 2021 the effects of the pandemic continued to hinder project operations, specifically
the hosting of workshops. Because gatherings of large groups have for the most part not been
permissible, the project had to shift its activities in this regard to doing household level awareness
raising and capacity building, demonstrating to and teaching individuals and families how to fix their
own leaks.

This report sees the close of WWW in terms of its relationship with the GCBR. With the funding
agreement with GCBR drawing to a close, much of the focus in recent months, and for most of 2020
has been in seeking alternative funding streams. Since WWW’s inception, Trapsuutjies has made
extensive progress in developing good working relationships with the local municipality. This has
resulted in support in the form of donations of supplies, and logistical support where possible.
However direct funding from the municipalities has still not been forthcoming.


WWW has achieved great results across not only their agreed deliverables with GCBR, but also
throughout their complimentary activities (such as the community #trashtag clean-ups and
International Coastal Clean-ups), gaining them widespread support and acclaim throughout their
local community.

Gouritz ecological corridors project (GCP)


Like other GCBR projects operating with farmers, the issues of changing mindsets are the same for
the GCP – many farmers and landowners are entrenched in generational practices that are often not
sustainable. Changing these mindsets is critical to successful implementation of the project, and to
do so takes continuous and focused extension work in order to win the trust and support of these
landowners.


In some areas, especially the arid regions where traditional farming practices are collapsing under
persisting drought, the landowners are indeed often willing and open to change practice, however
they lack the knowledge or support (financial or technical) to do so. GCP therefore endeavours to
provide this knowledge and facilitate access to resources, and will address the needs of the
landowners through shifting land use practices in favour of both human and ecological sustainability.


GCP is an initiative to enhance landscape scale ecological processes along mountain ranges and rivers
associated with the Gouritz river catchment in the GCBR domain.


Corridors are critical for ecological processes such as pollination, pest control, nutrient cycling and
water provision, as well as for the long-term survival of wild animals and plants, especially in the
context of climate change.


The project aims to establish landscape level strategies for effective fire management, successful
invasive alien plant control and improved river and wetland health by means of establishing
collaboration between farmers and other landowners.


A dedicated Herbertsdale Corridor Project Team conducted a series of baseline studies of natural
habitat types in October 2020, followed by landowner workshops and technical presentations
between November 2020 and February 2021. Ongoing engagement since then directly with
landowners has resulted in enhanced and mutually beneficial relationships.

With continual engagement and through collaborative discussion, a series of practical guidelines has
been compiled, critically with the buy-in of landowners and other stakeholders.


Areas identified as critical by landowners resulted in guidelines which cover the Management of
Micro-Corridors; Fire; Wetlands; and Invasive Alien Plant Control. These guidelines assist
landowners and stakeholders in implementing practical and co-operative strategies to address
threats and opportunities at a landscape scale, to support sustainable farming livelihoods and local
biodiversity.


An example of Fire Management: This image illustrates how well-timed, controlled burns along the foothills of the Langeberg mountain range have resulted in reduced numbers of invasive alien plants. The veld to the left-hand side of the image has not been part of a regular controlled burning programme and has dense stands of hakea present, while the right-hand side of the image has been burnt and has reduced invasive alien plant loads present. 

GCP made good progress over the last few months despite the pandemic. The recent months have
seen the project grow in recognition and reputation in the area of focus, with the extension officer
having regular interactions with landowners, some of which were at the request of the landowners
themselves.


Large rainfall events provided good planting conditions for the landowners in recent months,
however some landowners experienced flood damage. The flood damage presented an opportunity
to address issues around the management and interventions of riparian areas, to mitigate flood
damage.

Vanwyksdorp development institute project (VDI)


The VDI is a local community initiative based in the town of Vanwyksdorp. During 2020, the GCBR
assisted the VDI in building a multi-functional centre for training, as well as identifying and
establishing a portfolio of suitable training courses for the region’s needs.


The VDI centreis rented out for use by the public for meetings and gatherings 

Vanwyksdorp and the surrounding areas experience high unemployment rates, and the remote
nature of this area, combined with the persisting and devastating drought have only exacerbated this
problem. There is therefore a strong need in these communities to assist people with gaining
employment and upskilling through training is one way of doing this.


The training was well attended, but due to the drought most farmers were unable to invest in further
training of their staff. Indeed many have lost their livelihoods entirely as a result of the drought – in
many cases farmers have had to reduce their labour force or crops or terminate all farming activities,
and in some cases are forced to sell their land.


Covid-19 greatly stalled the number of training courses that were able to be held – increased
regulations around group gatherings meant that strict planning was needed for selecting courses of
specific sizes, and giving much consideration to the venues (for social distancing). Courses were
restricted to a maximum of 20 people indoors (depending on the venue), and most were outdoor
courses. Courses such as the Snake Awareness course would only allow for a group of 10 participants.

The VDI project/ partnership with the GCBR officially came to a close in February 2021. All project
milestones and targets were met by the end of 2020. The information provided hereunder is therefore
supplementary to demonstrate the ongoing activities and achievements post-grant.


The three years of funding support for the VDI and GCBR knowledge partnership greatly supported
the VDI in establishing itself as a credible service provider and influential stakeholder in the
Vanwyksdorp community and beyond.


The VDI continues to develop its activities and services, garnering funding and support to ensure the
continuation of the efforts built on the foundation of this grant.


Activities which have been identified for post-funding include:

  • An agricultural training area on the VDI campus. The area has been demarcated as grounds where course participants and community members can be taught skills within the agricultural sector, including vegetable garden growing.
  • Since inception, the VDI campus has been designed to include an Early Childhood Development Centre. The VDI has made great progress towards the realisation of this goal in recent months.
  • Earlier in 2021 the VDI undertook the construction of a new road and accompanying fencing on the Rietkraal property (the nature reserve co-owned by GCBR). The fencing work was undertaken by the LandCare team and the VDI hopes to use this and the team’s previous experience in fencing to promote them as a preferred service provider for fencing work in the local community and surrounds.

GCBR and local authorities’ project


The GCBR and local authorities’ project operates across the entire GCBR domain, across 10 local
municipalities and five district municipalities. The project fills the critical space which has existed
between the GCBR and local authorities, acting as a conduit for communication and leverage from
GCBR to its local government.


Navigating the municipal landscape in South Africa can however be extremely challenging. Whilst
corruption is entrenched across South African government agencies, in the GCBR context issues of
municipal staff turnover and apathy or lack of accountability are the more prevalent impediments to
project success. Identifying champions within the municipalities is key to the successful
implementation of projects and actions.


The project has continued to be greatly impeded by the pandemic, with restrictions, lockdowns and
Covid outbreaks in municipal offices all slowing down progress with municipal staff or making
meetings all together impossible.


The interruptions caused by the pandemic have also impeded the usual municipal cycles and
integrated development plan (IDP) decision-making, and thus made it difficult for the project to
make progress, especially in terms of the allocations of funding for the municipal IDP projects.


Outside of peak infection periods, as many meetings and interactions as possible have been held,
given that video-conferencing and email correspondence with municipal officials remains
challenging. Many officials do not or are not able to take hardware home with them, and as such
when they are required to quarantine or work from home it is often not possible to contact them.


The Local Authorities project has however been successful in its endeavours in engagement and
ensuring that municipal plans reflect priority objectives, in that almost all identified projects and
reports have now been submitted onto the IDPs (the primary tool for municipal funding and strategic
decision making). All projects and reports that did not make it onto the 2020/21 IDP were
successfully resubmitted now for inclusion on the 2021/22 IDPs.

Environmental clubs project (EC)


ECs are clubs set up in disadvantaged rural schools, which teach learners respect for themselves,
fellow humans and the natural environment – all of which are not intrinsic principles in the harsh
social context from which these leaners hail. Sadly these values are also often not taught at their
schools, and thus the need for outside support from a project like the EC is required in order to effect
positive changes in these areas of personal development.


Getting buy-in from the school staff is also sometimes a challenge, as the schools in which these clubs
are established are very limited in resources and staff are on very basic to low salary packages, all of
which create an environment of low enthusiasm towards improvement of teaching methods or
development of extra mural activities.


The presence of the EC in these schools is often times as much about inspiring and educating the
staff as it is about the learners, and apathetic staff have impeded some of the project goals, such as
establishing autonomy in the clubs.


This very environment which in itself is limiting is however the motivation to continue working in
these schools and these areas, given the great need for outside influence and motivation of both
learners and teachers.

It is important to note the value that the EC activities and influence bring into these childrens’ lives
– many of whom have never had a chance to experience simple activities like going to the sea, eating
in a restaurant or going to a museum, let alone to have personal interest taken in them, and teaching
them to love the natural world around them.


The pandemic has significantly affected the EC this year. Last year the pandemic considerably
restricted the project activities, but this year saw even greater restrictions imposed in schools and on
the clubs’ activities. Whilst some day visits involving tight restrictions (social distancing, wearing of
masks and meetings outdoors) were possible last year, for the most part the EC has been unable to
visit any schools to conduct club activities (hikes, camps, workshops) this year.

The only visits that the EC was permitted to do was a few interactions with school teachers and
principals (for planning) and visits to one school for a J4C video shoot in which the school was
included.


The other activity that the club was able to undertake was the provision of a water pump to the
primary school in Hoeko. The Hoeko Primary School is one of the EC participating schools, and being
a small rural school (like the other schools in the programme) is severely lacking in funding. The
school has a borehole, however they had issues with the pump previously, and as a result were not
able to pump water. This has left the school without any water for four years, as they have not had
the funds to address the problem. There has been no water for drinking and sanitation, and the
children therefore had to bring their own water to school – all of whom are from indigent households
themselves.


The EC was able to buy a pump and have it installed so that when the school re-opens the children
and school staff will have running water available for the first time in four years.