Ukuvuka: briefing

Water and Sanitation

05 March 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


5 March 2003

Chairperson: Mr J F Van Wyk (ANC)

Ukuvuka Operation Firestop Powerpoint Presentation

Ukuvuka focussed on the fire awareness and prevention campaign; the fire mitigation project; the fire and life safety programme; piloting behaviour change. The successes and failures of these projects and the role that Ukuvuka had played in increasing fire awareness and facilitating effective interaction between relevant stakeholders was discussed.

Ukuvuka briefing
Dr Guy Preston,Ms Sandra Fowkes, Mr Xolisile Mama, and Ms Nobom Sonto from Ukuvuka were present. Early in 2000 Ukuvuka had presented their goals to Mr R. Kasrils, and it was thought appropriate to give a progress report. Ms Fowkes gave some background to the project which was initiated after the severe fires in Cape Town in 2000. The aim was to significantly reduce the risk of damage and danger from wildfires in both the mountains and informal settlements of the Cape Peninsula.

Ukuvuka drew together many partners from a broad range of society. There wer three targets areas:
-to better protect the land and its plants,
-to decrease vulnerability of poor people to fires, and increase their resilience, and
-to improve the institutional structure around fire management through implementation of integrated fire management plans.

Fire awareness and prevention campaign (11 October 2000)
Mr Mama spoke about the disaster management and fire awareness and prevention campaigns that Ukuvuka had set up. Residents of Joe Slovo informal settlement were educated about putting out fires, and given posters and basic equipment. Many politicians and officials participated in this education programme, and the fire department was also involved.

Ms Fowkes discussed the success of this campaign. The aim was to decrease people's vulnerability but this was not effective. A fire in November 2000 in Langa's Joe Slovo settlement was very destructive, and their education efforts had not helped. It was realised that structural intervention was necessary.

The Fire Mitigation project

Ukuvuka had tested out a system of integrated service provision: of creating access tracks and fire breaks around groups of houses, and of keeping the area under the Eskom power lines clear of houses. Ukuvuka was also involved in a National Botanical Institute outreach program for greening the area, and in the provision of toilets and services.

This intervention resulted in a reduction of 90% in loss of dwellings to fire the next year, however, this figure increased again in 2002: structural intervention was not enough. The expenditure on the rehabilitation was around R3300 a household, which was not sustainable.

Fire and Life Safety Programme (April 2001)
Ukuvuka looked at successes in other countries, which had received 70% reduction in fire suppression costs through education. They instituted a fire and life safety program which taught people how to deal with fire, and also involved outreach programs, volunteer training, and interaction with city officials.
Piloting Behaviour Change (December 2002)
Nobom Sonto talked about the situation in the Red Hill community, which was vulnerable to fire. Ukuvuka implemented a participatory programme involving theatre, discussion, and initiation of behaviour changes.

Ms Fowkes stated that much could be learnt from failures as well as successes. Ukuvuka had increased awareness and education, improved cohesion between communities, and created linkages between different institutions. The immediate benefits of the alien plant controls on fire suppression were not clear, but this program had created much employment, especially for women.

Ukuvuka wanted to raise one problem that it had been difficult to make fire protection associations legal entities. Apparently this could not occur until Chapter 2 of the Veld and Forestry Act was promulgated. This was slowing down progress.

Mr P M Mathebe (ANC) asked about rehabilitation of fire-damaged land. He had not noticed any active rehabilitation in Langa.

Ms M L Ngwenya (ANC) suggested that prevention was better than cure. What was being done to make sure people get permanent residences?

Mr Mama replied that Ukuvuka was involved in integration. They had been involved in mitigation plans to remove shacks, create green belts, provide fire hydrants, fire brakes, electricity and drainage systems. It was an informal but effective system.

Mr Arendse (ANC) commented that it seemed that the aim of UKUVUKA was to bring other organisations together, to create synergy and thus increase fire prevention. Many of the questions that the members had asked applied to the responsibilities of local government, not Ukuvuka. The chair agreed with Mr Arendse, but said that the members were raising these questions so as to get an understanding of the constraints.

Ms Fowkes agreed with Mr Arendse. Rehabilitation of informal settlements was not a direct brief. The focus of Ukuvuka's rehabilitation was on the burnt slopes of table mountain. However, while focus on fire was the priority, wider issues could be addressed through this..

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked how Ukuvuka was resourced, and what their relationship with the fire services was. Was the education campaign effective, and what litigation was put in place when a fire was caused deliberately? What about long term plans for the area?

Ms Fowkes replied that their major sponsors were:
- City of Cape Town (30 000 000 over 4 years)
- Santam Ltd (20 000 000, decreased to 10 000 000)
-Total SA (1 000 000 over 4 years)
-WWF green trust (1 000 00 over 4 years)
-The Cape Argus (5 200 000)
-Working for Water

Their relationship with the fire services was constructive and they had been actively involved in many of their education campaigns. Generally people who started fires were dealt with by the community themselves, and she knew of no litigation measures in place. She commented that because Ukuvuka was working for a limited time period, they needed to confine the area in which they were operating. Ukuvuka saw itself as a role model to test out solutions. They would then hand over workable solutions to the relevant authorities.

As regards evaluating the effectiveness of their campaigns, an independent research team at UCT had assessed the work of Ukuvuka and these reports were available.

Mr S Simmons (NNP) questioned whether the structural changes to allow vehicular access in Langa was sufficient: some of the sections still had more than 100 dwellings in a block.

Mr Sibiya asked if Ukuvuka tried to discourage the erection of shacks.

Ms Fowkes replied that it was not possible to decrease the density of housing in Langa until some of the underlying socio-economic problems had been addressed. All Ukuvuka do was show people that if they lived so close together fires would occur. She commented that seventy five percent of people made fire breaks willingly.

Mr G McIntosh (DP) Asked about fire disaster management, is this ongoing work? He wanted to know about how Ukuvuka encouraged property owners to clear areas and maintain fire breaks, and whether the City of Cape Town has a disaster contingency fund.

Dr Preston said there was a contingency fund in urbanised areas. Ukuvuka was a role model for building relationships between authorities and land owners. The aim was to have an integrated, co-ordinated, systematic approach. He was very positive about the achievements of Ukuvuka in this regard. As regards whether it would be sustained, there was no option. It had to take place.

Mr D Maluleke (DP) suggested that the flammable material that informal dwellings were made from could be a problem. He asked if Ukuvuka tried to discourage people from using this sort of material.

Ms Fowkes agreed that flammable building materials were a problem. She stated that Ukuvuka as part of its brief to create an environment in which to experiment, was looking into a cheap, inflammable material that was being developed in KwaZulu Natal from sugar cane pulp.

Ms T E Lishivha asked if these programmes were only confined to Langa, and whether other communities were getting training. She also asked what the relationship was between UKUVUKA and the councillors.

Ms Sonto Ukuvuka stated that they had a very strong relationship with the councillors. Mr Mama was previously a councillor in Langa. They had a workshop planned in April, and were talking with land owners. What Ukuvuka aimed to do is to use their partners to influence other areas, to channel information to the relevant stakeholder.

Mr Simmonds and Mr Ditshetelo asked if the sponsors (the City of Cape Town) felt that their responsibilities ended with funding.

Dr Preston stated that Ukuvuka worked very closely with the City of Cape Town, which was a very active participant in everything that they do. In fact, the city should take the credit.

Mr Van Wyk noted that one objective of Ukuvuka was to control invading alien plants. He asked how the fire prevention campaign changed the attitude of people towards plants. How could other informal settlements, and cities/towns in South Africa might benefit.

Dr Preston said there was a very strong possibility of taking aspects of the programme an implementing it in other areas. Ukuvuka would like to work with members in their relevant constituencies. Ms Fowkes commented that the aim of Ukuvuka was to create knowledge assets. Videos and reports of all the work completed were available.

Committee members were encouraged to visit Ukuvuka's offices in Kirstenbosch.

The Chair commented positively on the role that Ukuvuka played in developing new approaches to address problems. He stated that there was the possibility of visiting some of the sites, and he promised to follow up on Chapter 2 of the act to see what could be done to speed up the process.

Meeting was adjourned.


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