Youth development organisation the Afrika Tikkun Foundation is assisting more than 500 businesses affected by the floods in KZN and most SMMEs are in poor communities in areas unfit to safeguard their lives and businesses against flooding.
“When it comes to climate change, we all know that it is happening but there is an increased amount of localised disasters in different provinces and this comes down to town planning and particularly that of low income areas where the poor are getting parts of the land that are incredibly vulnerable. This for us is among the most important need that needs to be urgently addressed,” CEO of the foundation Alef Meulenberg said in a statement.
Afrika Tikkun Foundation has twice witnessed the effects of social and weather disruptions on the township economies where small businesses have braved through the pandemic, last year’s July riots and the most recent floods. KZN witnessed the most rainfall recorded in over 60 years when the floods first hit in April, showing the immense risks for vulnerable populations where flood-proofed infrastructure is non-existent.
While support interventions for the township economy are effective in a crisis, the long-term risks of climate change on society’s vulnerable must become a national, multi stakeholder priority to achieve climate justice and sustainable development in South Africa.
The provincial government said the floods affected more than 85 000 people, with more than 400 fatalities, 50 injuries and 88 people still missing last month.
Afrika Tikkun Foundation’s small business intervention started after last year’s riots in KZN and has now extended to flood relief. After the July looting, the NPO launched a revitalisation programme for township economies aimed at rebuilding and assisting small businesses directly affected by the rampant destruction which affected hundreds of small and informal businesses, costing the already fragile economy billions.
The initiative targeted 2500 small businesses on the brink of collapse, through a holistic rescue program which aids in the form of financial resources, infrastructure as well as skills development. Through initiatives such as #RevivingTownshipEconomies, there is hope yet that township-based businesses will bounce back stronger than ever –but the climate related risks to their survival remain.
Scientific assessments including that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings in both the most recent Sixth Assessment, and historical reports have shown that Africa will increasingly experience the harshest of climate change impacts from warming that is already locked in the system. This means we have limited time to safeguard society, and in particular, the township economy to support vulnerable communities’ continued engagement in self -employment, job creation and economic growth.
“Township businesses have shown remarkable resilience; they have been hit by COVID19 lockdowns; 2012 and today the floods. We are focusing on helping businesses to be supporters post the floods in KZN but we need long term planning that will safeguard townships and informal settlements as part of disaster intervention,” said Meulenberg, adding that “people who are living in townships and informal settlements are not in prime areas, they are not developed for agricultural or residential use so again it really points to inequality and how the poor in a disaster are often the hardest hit.”