Creating jobs, tackling climate change

21 October 2011

Climate change innovation is taking off in a big way in South Africa – as demonstrated by initiatives such as The Fresh Air Factory, a Durban-based community project that creates “green” products by recycling locally available materials.

Through the project, based at the Eco Park in Durban’s Bluff area, a group of previously disadvantaged locals are being given the opportunity to earn money and acquire business skills by producing environmentally friendly products from recycled materials.

One of the challenges for achieving climate change sustainability is getting local communities to respond in ways that will not only see their environments looked after, but will also create jobs, impart new skills, and help the community to prosper.

Making new challenges work for people

Miller Matola, CEO of Brand South Africa, says success stories such as The Fresh Air Factory demonstrate the commitment of South Africans to making new challenges, such as climate change, work for them through innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The project is established as a community factory that produces green products from recycled and locally available materials,” says Matola. “At the same time, participants are taught skills for their own future business ventures.

“It’s a showcase illustrating how local economic development can be achieved, and this is through community participation, skills development and being creative with the resources that are available.”

The products made at The Fresh Air Factory are targeted for corporate gifting through the co-ordination of Little Green Gifts and Packaging, and the factory is open to the public – allowing visitors to see firsthand what is being made from the recycled waste.

Focus on human resource development

Antoinette Kruger of Little Green Gifts and Packaging says her business is keen to support The Fresh Air Factory initiative, along with various other similar projects around South Africa. However, she adds, that the downfall of many community projects is quality control, and the fact that large orders cannot always be met.

Because of this, The Fresh Air factory is being developed as a pilot project with an eye to franchising. “The aim is to have a network of Fresh Air Factories, so that the greater quantities of products often required by retailers and corporates can be produced,” says Kruger.

An additional component to the success of the project is that it moves away from focusing on capital development to focusing on human resource development – therefore increasing the platforms for skills transfer and employment.

“Every South African should play their part in dealing with climate change, and the people of the Bluff are showing the value that comes from collective effort,” says Matola.

“Projects like The Fresh Air Factory link those who were previously disadvantaged into the real and active economy, and allow for increased participation and production in local markets, as well as sustainable job creation.”

SAinfo reporter