As the global community observes World Water Week, South African Breweries (SAB) takes centre stage in championing innovative solutions for water conservation and management. With agriculture deeply ingrained in its operations due to the reliance on water-intensive hop cultivation, SAB underscores its commitment to preserving this vital resource.
Under the overarching theme of “Seeds of change: Innovative solutions for a water-wise world”, World Water Week seeks to inspire individuals and corporations to rethink their water management practices. Zoleka Lisa, vice president: corporate affairs at SAB, says, “SAB is proud to share some of the innovative work done in water-stressed areas, demonstrating our commitment to conserving water and promoting a water-wise future.”
Preserving the Hops Valley
One of SAB’s flagship initiatives centres around the Hops Valley in the Southern Cape, the sole region in Africa where hops are cultivated. However, this unique ecosystem has been under threat due to invasive plant species depleting the water supply and leaving local communities and farmers vulnerable.
In collaboration with the decade-long partnership between WWF-SA and SAB, the project, led by Rozanne Steyn of RS Environmental Services, has taken decisive action.
Situated in Waboomskraal and Herold, outside George, the project targets invasive plants that consume up to 60% more water than indigenous vegetation. The initiative has saved an impressive estimated 11 billion litres of water annually, bolstering both food security for local farmers and the preservation of vital water resources.
Steyn emphasised the importance of their work, stating, “Water is life for our people and for the beautiful indigenous nature that surrounds us. We need to do everything we can to protect it.”
Beyond water conservation, the Hops Valley project has had a profound socio-economic impact. Employing between 10 and 12 local community members, the initiative provides skills training and education to these workers, positively affecting a minimum of 40 households throughout the year. This ripple effect even extends to informal, seasonal workers.
Imfino: Nurturing the land
Another ground-breaking endeavour by SAB is the Imfino project, launched in 2021 at the SAB Ibhayi Brewery in the Eastern Cape. This project emphasises water-saving techniques at its core, featuring a commercial 2000m2 drip irrigation system supporting the sustainable growth of spinach in raised beds.
Dr Richard Taylor, the project lead, highlighted their success, producing four to six tonnes of spinach per month through an intensive farming approach that optimizes growth and yield.
Imfino’s impact is far-reaching, encompassing job creation, skill development, and corporate social responsibility efforts. The project provides spinach to a local nursery school catering to orphaned children, fostering a nurturing environment while promoting healthy eating habits.
Lisa reiterated the significance of these initiatives, “Through projects such as these, the people of SAB demonstrate how much the environment matters to us. Our actions hold the power to shape tomorrow.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.