Berg River Project, powering the Green Economy

Berg River Project, powering the Green Economy
Francis Steyn
Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Private Bag X1, Elsenburg 7607, South Africa.
Tel:  +27 21-8085090 Fax: +27 21-8085092 Cell: +27 82 907 2813, E-mail:

This project is work in progress and it has already demonstrated great value in promoting the Green Economy, by adding financial value to alien biomass which could result in the beginning of the end of one of our greatest threats to biodiversity in South Africa; namely alien plant infestation. The ultimate aim of this project is to restore the most important river system in the Cape Town Metro pole area to a healthy river system that will promote human wellbeing. To remove the alien vegetation and replace this with indigenous vegetation would cost the Government approximately R300 million and the sustainability of the present initiatives could be doubtful. This project is aimed at doing this clearing by creating a value for the biomass and thereby adding value to the problem. This value would then partially or even totally fund the restoration and the biomass could be used to enhance energy production further displaying sustainable technologies.

This important natural resource affects every person indirectly in the Metro pole area due to the food that is produced from this resource and the value adding from the agricultural industry. This river also supply a major portion of the water required for domestic purposes in the Cape Metro. Some 22 500 ha of irrigation of high value crops on 600 farm units along the Berg River resulted in a gross farm gate value of R 911 million of which R 642 million was from exports (2005 figures).  The agricultural activities also provided 14 100 permanent and 16 500 temporary jobs during 2005. Presently this resource is in a degraded state and poses a major threat to human health, decline of rural economy (especially the loss of permanent jobs), negatively affect the entire value adding economy of the Western Cape and further degradation of the environment increasing the risk of losing more precious natural resources during flooding events.

A healthy river system would enhance the economy of the Western Cape by creating more permanent jobs, especially in Agriculture, but more importantly in new industries, such as Agri Tourism, created due to the vast improvement in the quantity and quality of water within the Berg River system. The improvement of the quality of water alone could prevent the risk of losing important export markets to the value of billions of rand to the economy. The removal of 1500 ha of alien plants would save enough water for the planting of at least as many hectares of food crops thereby building our base to food security in the Province.