Three-way partnership empowers communities to fight climate change

Jul 6, 2016 | Small Projects

What is a Wonderbag?

The Wonderbag is a pumpkin-shaped bag made of cloth and stuffed with foam. Food is brought to the boil before the pot is placed inside the bag and closed tightly. The heat-retention properties of the foam allow the food to carry on cooking for several hours. Wonderbags save money, cooking fuel and carbon emissions, and enable women to use their time for things other than collecting fuel and keeping an eye on pots.

This project develops skills and empowers women’s groups in the Klein Karoo to make wonder bags and, through a series of interactive workshops, capacitates community groups to understand climate change and the mitigation impact of the use of wonder bags.

Three-way partnership empowers communities to fight climate change

The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR), CapeNature, and Wonderbag – the company that manufactures and markets a heat-retention cooking bag with the same name – have launched a project in Oudtshoorn and De Rust that is creating jobs, developing skills and giving disadvantaged households the tools to help fight climate change.

CapeNature and GCBR have been running community workshops about climate change for a while. “The Wonderbag initiative is a scaled-up version of what we have been doing,” says Wendy Crane from GCBR. “We can now reach many more people.”

This scaled-up version has held 17 workshops so far (and with a few more to come) where community members receive information on climate change, as well as tips and tools on how to conserve the environment, use water wisely and save electricity and other sources of fuel. At the same time, people are taught about the Wonderbag and the spekboom – a small-leaved succulent indigenous to the Eastern and Western Cape, whose enormous carbon-storing capabilities make it a natural climate change fighter. Each participant receives a spekboom cutting to plant at home.

“Our goal is to spread the climate change message,” says Susan Botha from Cape Nature. “We want communities to know about it and then do something to contribute. To this end, we give them tools, such as the Wonderbag and the spekboom, to join the fight in their own homes. The point is that if we all do our little bit, climate change can be mitigated.”

The Wonderbag company, whose main factory is in Tongaat in KwaZulu-Natal, provided the project with Wonderbag DIY kits and trained two groups of women on making the cooking bags. Two micro-factories were set up in homes in Oudtshoorn and De Rust where manufacturing is progressing well, with 1000 Wonderbags completed to date. The manufacturing and community workshop costs are funded by the Foundation for Human Rights and the Government of Flanders.

Explaining their participation in the project, Wendy says that the GCBR’s objective is to showcase examples of how human development can be combined with environmental protection. “The fact is that many of our environmental assets are on private land in the hands of wealthy people. Our challenge is to find ways to assist poorer communities to balance environmental protection with their own livelihoods. This project is an excellent example of what can be done.”

This project is sponsored by the Foundation for Human Rights and Flanders Government.

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