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In harmony with nature

Written by Samona Murugan
"If we work with the environment, the environment will work for us," said the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa. She was introducing an eco-friendly furniture factory as part of National Parks Week recently. The factory not only provides jobs to local people, but also develops skills.

Employees of the Eco Furniture Factory, which is part of the SANParks Natural Resource Management Programme. [Photo: Courtesy Department of Environmental Affairs] South Africa is blessed with some of the most beautiful national parks in the world. The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs highlights these valuable national assets each year in September by celebrating National Parks Week. The aim of the week is to raise awareness, share, and give back in the nation's 22 national parks.

One of the main projects highlighted during National Parks Week was the opening of an eco-friendly furniture factory. The project falls under the department's Natural Resource Management Programme.

Invasive plants

Through this factory, the department has been able to create about 52 jobs producing school desks and benches for various government departments.

Programmes like these are aimed at uplifting poor communities, while at the same time helping with the control of invasive alien plants in national parks. The main wood supply is from the invasive alien vegetation in national parks and on private land bordering the parks. These consist largely of blue gum and black wattle trees. The blue gum that is cleared from the parks are mainly used for the manufacturing of furniture while the wattle is used for making poles, walking sticks and related products.

Sustainable development

"If we work for the environment, the environment will work for us," said Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.

"We are committed to the promotion of a society that lives in harmony with its environment. Therefore we must promote collaboration between the work done by our Natural Resource Management Programme and SANParks to ensure that our approach to environmental management is integrated and responsive to our job creation efforts, She said.

"This is at the heart of government's sustainable development agenda."

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