Concept note on the Cape Flats Wetland Forum (CFWF)

[This blog post can also be downloaded as pdf here.]


This document can suggestively be cited as: Ernstson, H. 2011. Concept note on the organization Cape Flats Wetland Forum (CFWF). Published on http://www.rhizomia.org, 2011.02.28.


Concept and discussion note on the organization “Cape Flats Wetland Forum” by Henrik Ernstson, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. Also published at his blog http://www.rhizomia.org.



Concept note on the organization
Cape Flats Wetland Forum (CFWF)


Henrik Ernstson


Introduction

My key informant in Grassy Park first mentioned the Cape Flats Wetland Forum (CFWF) when I visited in 2009, two years after I first came here. The organization were then busy with the rehabilitation project at Princess Vlei, “The Dressing of the Princess” (see more information below) and had formed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with City Parks of Cape Town, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) through its now defunct Urban Conservation Unit (which was closed down together with the Cape Flats Nature project).

“The Forum”, lead by its active spokesperson Kelvin Cochrane, who initiated and lead both the Bottom Road Sanctuary, Last Road and The Ecopark community square rehabilitation projects (see below), had managed to further build on its already established relations with the public extended works programme Working for Wetlands. This relation allowed The Forum and the Dressing of the Princess project to access state funds and low-paid workers to aid in the laboursome removal of non-indegenous plants and the planting of especially sand plain fynbos for rehabiliation. Nonetheless, besides this labour force, The Forum also had their own labourers, which often were paid by the The Forum’s members themselves.

In 2009, The Forum, pressed for finding enough resources was busy mobilizing other organizations to bring more resources to the Princess Vlei project. For instance, local schools were joining through an ‘adopt-a-plot’ scheme whereby students would plant and maintain rehabilitated land. In parallel to this, the conflict over allowing the building of a shopping mall on one part of the Princess Vlei was in full swing so the project needed to also mobilize political support for the Dressing of the Princess. My interpretation, supported by other informants in the field, see Cape Flats Wetland Forum, and its spokesperson, as the prime mover in this social organization underpinning the organizational support of the Dressing of the Princess project. Interestingly however, through the clear conflict over how to use urban green space at Princess Vlei – for a shopping mall or as an extensive area for ecological rehabilitation and recreation – others joined the coalition supporting the rehabilitation project. The conflict then seems to have resulted in an interesting up-scaling of the local struggle to also include the support from various other organizations, including especially the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, the local social development and rate payers association LOGRA, and parts of the members of the Friends of Tokai Forest (who were in contact with Kelvin Cochrane already in 2007-8 during the Bottom Road Sanctuary project). From 2009 and onwards then, a whole network of supporting organizations and a multitude of individuals from different walks of life has been formed that especially support the Dressing of the Princes and resists the building of a shopping mall. What we seem to have is an emergent partnership that goes beyond merely one organization and its members. (Facts that support this can be found from the records of affected and interesetd parties from 2008 and from the range of individuals and organziations that handed in objection letters in 2010, and from my upcoming object letter day survey.)

In spite this organizational support, the economy of rehabilitation is a problem since both planting and maintanance requires quite extensive labour. This could be solved either by voluntary people, or by employing people. Whereas the Working for Wetland has contributed over the years, less support has been given, it seems, from the City. As I returned to the field in late 2010 The Forum has transformed to also be a mechanism by which to economically fund the rehabilitation and urban green space interventions that they have engaged and are part of. Having learnt how to develop and carry out rehabilitation projects through their community-based projects, they now offer their skills and knowledge to the market whereby their earnings can be plowed back into their community-based projects, and also generate labour in the Cape Flats communities they want to support.

Given the above, the Cape Flats Wetland Forum anno 2011 can be described as a hybrid organization, between civic and professional, that is based in Grassy Park on Cape Flats. In my interpretation it aims to on one hand carry out ecological rehabilitation projects, and on the other (and through such rehabilitation) drive and support public green space projects towards social development in the marginalized areas of Cape Flats. As such, and based on my interviews, it aims to use its profits to support such projects, and hopefully empower those living in these areas. Furthermore, and although one of its true abilities seems to be to link other organizations and resources so as to generate collective action, a concern for its future might lie in that it only has three members, and that it is currently classified as a “closed corporation”. An option would be to open up the membership towards either other organizations (like an umbrella organization) and/or individual members. This might however require a higher level of bueorchracy, which could steal time that current members feel they do not have. The organization could also register as a not-for profit organization, which could still receive earnings from market projects, but these would be channelled towards the community-based not-for-profit projects. The fact remains that restoration projects of the sort that Cape Flats Wetland Forum, and its supporters and collaborative partners aim to realize costs money, and that some form of long-term and sustained funding needs to be put in place. My interpretation is that the organization is busy trying to solve this, testing a new model that might work well.


Projects by Cape Flats Wetland Forum, 2005-2011

Having noted the importance of the Cape Flats Wetland Forum and some of the conundrum it is facing, it is therefore timely to summarize some of those grassroots driven rehabiliation projects that the organization and its members has organized since 2005. It is here notde that before 2009 the name Cape Flats Wetland Forum was not used, but the same persons, and especially the spokesperson Kelvin Cochrane was involved in all projects described below. I therefore find it correct to associate also these projects to The Forum. Below follows a short resumĂ© of the four community driven restoration projects – the Bottom Road Sanctuary, Last Road, The Ecopark, and the much larger Dressing of the Princess Vlei project – and the three professional rehabilitation projects – Nordhoek, Zandvlei, and Constantia. The latter three have been received through that the City of Cape Town has adviced to work with Cape Flats Wetland Forum. The information is mainly based on participation and interviews with the spokesperson and organizational leader Kelvin Cochrane, but also through reading through documents. More information will be gathered at a later stage.

1. Bottom Road Sanctuary (2005-2008)

What was once a rubbish dump and referred to as useless land is from 2008 Cape Town’s newest biodiversity sanctuary and community park, a thriving place of plants, birds, and people. The project started in 2005 when residents bought land in the area. Stewarded by Kelvyn Cochrane every step of the way, a collaborative model was set up in which 12 residents decided to not put up security walls allowing a greater combined area for ecological rehabilitation. Further, in close collaboration with reserve managers at the Rondevlei Nature Reserve a white-paper agreement could be signed in which the city and the residents ‘gave up’ five metres each of their land for the rehabilitation project to work on, accessing the ecologically important shoreline. In the course of merely three years, and in collaboration with workers from the Working for Wetlands project, this site at the Northern shore of Zeekoevlei could go from a rubbish dump to a site that attracts and allows the movement of bumblebees, pollinators, birds, frogs and people alike. For those involved, a first ‘blueprint’ of what could be accomplished on derelict urban spaces had been proven, together with a first working model of how work with local residents.

Some 50 000 plants and 40 different species were planted in the course of the project. Machines were used to landscape certain parts of the site and remove taifa. A storm water channel was modified to serve as an important wetland habitat. Boumas, paths and brai/barbeque areas were created so as to faciliate for people to appreciate and use the area.

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BottomRd_Dec08__333_1

Bottom Road Sanctuary December 2008.
Ponds were created and planted.

Fact sheet:

Location:
Northern shore of Zeekoevlei
Size of site:
8000 m2
Project start:
2005
Project finish:
2008
Current status:
Maintanence, which means removal of weeds and some watering.
Plant composition:
50 000 plants in total from 40 different species of plain sand fynbos. These included Restios, Ericas, and Serrurias.
Ecological change:
Reintroducing fynbos plants, habitats for animals, and reintroduced landscape ecological functions like pollination connecting to other ecological sites in the area. Scientific investigations by MSc student at UCT on their way.
Partners:
Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Working for Wetlands, and 12 local residents’ households.
Homepage:
www.bottomroadsanctuary.co.za


2. Last Road (Dec 2007-2009)

Mid-way into the Bottom Road Sanctuary project, other residents were contacted along the near-by Lazarus Road and they became interested. One aim was, as stated by Kelvyn Cochrane in an interview: “Bottom Road is just a ‘blueprint’. We need to always expand beyond our own backyard”. Another 5 residents’ households were added to the project, building on the innovations already in place for Bottom Road: residents agreed upon not having security walls, and Rondevlei Nature Reserve extended their white paper agreement through which residents and the city ‘give up’ five metres each of their land for the rehabiliation project to work on.

Bulldozers and loaders re-shaped some of the area and removed large stands of taifa to create more suitbale surfaces for restoring wetland fynbos. Some 6000 plain sand fynbos plants were planted.

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LastRd_Dec08__339_1
Before – Last Road in November 2007.
After – Last Road in December 2008.

Fact sheet:

Location:
Northern shore of Zeekoevlei along the outlet of XX river.
Size of site:
4000 m2
Project start:
Dec 2007
Project finish:
2009
Current status:
Maintanence, which means removal of weeds and some watering.
Plant composition:
6000 plants in total from species of plain sand fynbos including Restios, Ericas and Serrurias.
Ecological change:
Reintroduction of fynbos plants and the recreation of habitat for animals, and landscape ecological functions connecting this site to other ecological sites in the area. Scientific investigations on their way.
Partners:
Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Working for Wetlands, and 5 local residents’ households.


3. The Ecopark community square (2008-2010)

In 2008, Kelvin Cochrane contacted the Department of City Parks at the City of Cape Town to ask if he and his organization could work on the derelict and neglected barren piece of land lying between Bottom Road and Last Road. With the City’s approval, the Cape Flats Wetland Forum created in less than two years a vibrant community square with fynbos plants, grassy areas for fotball and celebration, and a brai place for everybody to enjoy. From barren and unused land, the square is now host to children’s birtday parties and Sunday family brais amongst other things.

Some 3000 plain sand fynbos plants and 40 camper trees were planted, both alongside the perimeter of the square and on nearby residents’ areas. A bouma and brai place was created.

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Ecopark_Nov07__282
Ecopark community square in Grassy Park, December 2007. Beginning of project.
DSC_0503
Ecopark_Feb_2011
Removing weeds at Ecopark, Dec 2010.
Ecopark community square in February 2011

Fact sheet:

Location:
Between Bottom Road and Last Road in Grassy Park.
Size of site:
3000 m2
Project start:
2008
Project finish:
2010
Current status:
Maintanence, which means removal of weeds and some watering.
Plant composition:
3000 plants of plain sand fynbos including Restios, Ericas and Serrurias, and 40 Camper trees.
Ecological change:
Reintroduction of fynbos plants.
Partners:
Department of City Parks at City of Cape Town.


4. Princess Vlei (2008 and ongoing)

After having gained experience at Bottom Road, Last Road and Ecopark, the Cape Flats Wetland Forum aimed for a larger-scale rehabilitation project at Princess Vlei. This wetland and public open green space is an important but degraded wetland due to decades of disneglect and mismanagemet during apartheid and post-apartheid. For many it is also a wetland and green area of intense meaning and of cultural importance, tied in with the Kohi people who used to water their herds here in pre-colonial times, and as recreational space for especially those classified as Coloureds during apartheid. In an effort to rehabilitate not only the fynbos vegetation, but also public open space functions, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Cape Flats Wetland Forum, City Parks, and SANBI in 2008. The project was called “The Dressing of the Princess” which made reference to the Kohi Princess who according to legend was killed (or abducted) by Europeans sailors 500 years ago and whose tears filled the Vlei. When the City in 2009 wanted to allow the building of a shopping mall on this site, several other organizations, schools, residents, and citizens across Cape Town supported the MOU and its project. A decision on the shopping mall will come in March 2011.

The Forum and the network of organizations now supporting the rehabiliation project has articulated several plans for the Princess Vlei including, apart from rehabilitation of habitat and fynbos vegetation (ongoing in the southeastern corner of the park area and at the main entrance), a Sunset Concert Park for concerts and theatre (in preparation together with City Parks), an Environmental and Heritage Centre to create a platform for learning about urban nature and the many threads of history that run through this place, a Hiking Trail to Elephants Eye Cave where the Kohi Princess is said to have lived, and an Arts and Crafts Market. These plans forms together an argument by which the coalition againts the shopping mall articulates that it is possible to develop the Princess Vlei as a rehabilitated wetland, a safe place for everybody, and a space for commercial activities at a scale that can contribute to local small-scale businesses (instead of undermining these as a shopping mall would likely do).

Cueva_casa__442
Princess Vlei is one of the bigger wetlands left of Cape Flats wetland system.
Princess Vlei rehabilitation project in October 2010.

Fact sheet:

Location:
Southeastern corner and main entrance of Princess Vlei along M5.
Size of site:
10 000 m2
Project start:
2008
Project finish:

Current status:
Ongoing project.
Plant composition:
5000 plain sand fynbos plants including Restios, Ericas and Serrurias, some strandveld, and some 200 trees, including Camper trees. 
Ecological change:
Reintroduction of fynbos plants starting to attract pollinators and other animals. Scientific investigations on their way.
Partners:
The MOU “The Dressing of the Princess” include Cape Flats Wetland Forum, Department of City Parks (City of Cape Town), and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Extended supporters include 5 local shools that have ‘adopted-a-plot’ to plant and care for, local social development organization LOGRA, the city-wide environmental organization the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, the national environmental organization WESSA, and other organization.


5. Zandvlei housing development project

The Zandvlei project was the first commercial project that Cape Flats Wetland Forum engaged. It involved replanting fynbos at newly built housing units in Muizenberg. When the developer and real estate company built housing at a degraded wetland site in Muizenberg they were adviced in 2009 by the City of Cape Town to work with the Cape Flats Wetland Forum to restore habitat. 

Some 10 000 fynbos plants and 200 trees were planted in the course of 4 months.

Fact sheet:

Location:
Between Zandvlei wetland area and False Bay train station.
Size of site:
5000 m2
Project start:
Aug 2009
Project finish:
Nov 2009
Current status:
Finalized.
Plant composition:
10 000 plain sand fynbos plants including Restios, Ericas and Serrurias, and some 200 trees. 
Ecological change:
Rehabilitating locally and regionally important habitat for Leopard toad.
Partners:
Private customer.


6. Noordhoek Leopard toad rehabilitation project

Along the Old Cape Farm Road lies one of the most important breeding grounds for Leopard toads. However, as it was in great danger of being destroyed, the City of Cape Town adviced a private property owner to work with the Cape Flats Wetland Forum to rehabiltate this pond and habitat for Leopard toads.

Fact sheet:

Location:
Old Cape Farm Road
Size of site:
1600 m2
Project start:
May 2010
Project finish:
September 2010
Current status:
Finalized.
Plant composition:
4000 plain sand fynbos plants, and 50 trees. 
Ecological change:
Rehabilitating locally and regionally important habitat for Leopard toad.
Partners:
Private customer.


7. Constantia rehabilitation project

The project aims to recreate a fynbos wetland habitat that had been lost to residential area. The Cape Flats Wetland Forum was recommended as the suitable partner for this project.

Loaders have removed illegal dumping of soil into wetland area and some 300 fynbos plants will be planted.

Fact sheet:

Location:
Constantia.
Size of site:
300 m2
Project start:
Jan 2011
Project finish:
Aug 2011
Current status:
Ongoing.
Plant composition:
300 fynbos plants.
Eological change:
Recreating lost wetland habitat.
Partners:
Private customer.

End of document.

Comments

Cecile-Ann said…
Absolutely brilliant project and would like to pursue a career in this, in particular Urban Development. I had the opportunity to chat to Kelvin yesterday and he mentioned that you were currently at UCT. It is only recently that I realised what I should be doing with my life and therefore intend making use of the resources I have at present i.e. to get my degree here at my place of work UWC. Cecilé-Ann Pearce