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Deputy Minister Ms Barbara Thomson vists Theu-Theu Primary School and hands over Eco Desks

29 April 2016


The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms. Barbara Thomson today, Friday 29 April 2016, handed over Eco Furniture desks to Theu-Theu Primary School at Pixley ka Seme Municipality in Volksrust, Mpumalanga.

These desks are manufactured from timber obtained during the clearing of Alien Invasive Plants at the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working for Water Eco Furniture factory in KwaZulu-Natal. The Working for Water programme, the country’s national programme to control invasive alien species, has piloted value-added industry options in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Invasive Alien Species Programme (KZN IASP). The programme is part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The aim of the programme is to establish viable furniture factories where products needed by Government are manufactured.  Wood from alien invasive plants are used to manufacture high-quality products at lower cost, creating jobs for approximately 1 500 workers nationally.  The programme also produces chess board tables.

Alien invasive plants cause enormous damage to the environment threatening water security, reducing the productive use of land, and affecting the ecological functioning of natural systems.

During the handover of desks, the Deputy Minister outlined the importance of giving schools furniture and looking after the environment.

“Our schools are important community structures. It is here where our future leaders are shaped and made. As the environmental sector we must input into the shaping and moulding of these future leaders so that the caring for and management of our environment become important considerations in their minds.

‘’It is this understanding that has informed our decision to come here today. The care for, and protection of, our environment has to start at a young age and we therefore need to take pro-active step to nurture in our younger generation an appreciation for the importance of environmental care and protection,” said the Deputy Minister.

Theu–Theu Primary School is a disadvantaged school located in the Vukuzakhe Township, Volksrust.

The handover of desks by the Deputy Minister is in response to school principal Mr Masondo’ s plea for school desks and uniforms for leaners rom poor backgrounds.

Deputy Minister Thomson handed over 60 desks to the school, school uniforms to 25 leaners, as well as 1 185 school bags with stationery to learners.

The Deputy Minister pointed out that the Working for Water and furniture programmes assisted with job creation and skills development.

“The key objective of all of these programmes is to link marginalized communities with opportunities and resources in the environmental sector to address poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment and to encourage community ownership and management of our natural and cultural resources,” said the Deputy Minister.  She added the programme aimed to put over 500 000 leaners behind solid wood, quality school desks.

The two primary outcomes of the programme being sought by the Department of Environmental Affairs are:

  • Water securitythrough the clearing of invasive plant biomass from catchments which allows for increased water flows to downstream communities. The importance of these Working for Water Programmes has been reconfirmed during the current severe and prolonged drought; and
  • Job creation and upskilling of participants through the processing of the biomass into furniture which is used to meet Government’s service delivery mandate.

Alongside this the Department has embarked on a Value-Added Industries (VAI) Programme which looks to identify innovative new product lines and markets for the targeted biomass. The VAI Programme, starting with eco-coffins and eco-desks, has identified the need to process multiple invasive species at large scale if it wishes to prevent the expansion of invasive plants or, at some point, make strides in eradicating the threats posed by these plants.

In addition to office furniture, early childhood development products and arts and crafts, the DEA is combining the need to provide quality housing solutions within informal settlements utilisinginvasive biomass for construction materials, thermal control and internal furnishings.

The Department is confident that this will add to its suite of options in promoting water security and job creation solutions.

For media inquiries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871