This interview is reposted from the African Utility Week website.
The 17th annual African Utility Week will gather over 7000 decision makers from more than 80 countries to source the latest solutions and meet over 300 suppliers. Along with multiple side events and numerous networking functions the event also boasts a five track conference with over 300 expert speakers.
The Genius of SPACE project is one of the first of its kind internationally to adopt a systems approach to tackling such issues in a way that provides and stimulates economic opportunities.
Joint interview with Jason Mingo, Berg River Task Manager, Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning ; Jonny Harris, founder and director, Isidima ; Claire Mollatt, Project co-ordinator and solid waste lead for Genius of SPACE at Greenhouse Systems Development (GSD) and Justin Friedman of GSD.
The Genius of SPACE project is a result of the merging of the Berg River Bioremediation and the Genius of Place projects. This happened in June 2015 in a new tender that was submitted by the project team. The Bioremediation project was initiated by the Western Cape Dept of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP). The Genius of Place project was run by the Western Cape Government Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT). These two projects started in 2012 / 2013.
The name of the project fulfils two important elements. Firstly, the name stands for Genius of Systems for People’s Access to a Clean Environment (SPACE), which sets out the direct objective of the project. Secondly, the project aims to demonstrate novel approaches and innovative systems when it comes to utilising the space available to address socio-environmental issues within an informal settlement. These issues are mainly focussed on addressing waste flows -solid waste and polluted stormwater. In incorporating the principles of Water Sensitive Design, the project is one of the first of its kind internationally to adopt a systems approach to tackling such issues in a way that provides and stimulates economic opportunities. This is achieved at the community level, through effective participation (co-design), capacity development and embedding ownership of interventions and solutions together with private partnership development. The integration of green infrastructure solutions with novel service delivery systems, seeks to shift current paradigms in community upliftment and environmental protection.
Check out this video of how it works.
During construction and operation and maintenance, we have been hit by a number of incidences of theft – mostly of tools and office equipment. The project has a strict timeline. However, the paperwork required for getting permits from the municipality’s departments does not necessarily follow these timelines, and so can sometimes cause delays in implementation or construction that relies on authorisations. Essentially it has taken time to get through the red tape of paperwork and to assist municipalities and government to think ‘outside the box’. However, overall the municipality has been supportive of our work.
- Community engagement takes time – have learnt that we need to be patient in order to get lasting and meaningful work done in the community
- Community engagement is a two way relationship – it’s like building a romantic relationship – there needs to be compromise, trust, authenticity, accountability, and some give and take on both sides
- Necessity is the mother of invention
- Innovation can come at the most unexpected moments and places e.g. from construction team staff who made an addition to the greywater disposal point designs using leftover paving materials to protect the infrastructure.
The only way to stay healthy is to work hand-in-hand with each other and with Genius of Space, since they are trying to change our lives in the community