There is a global acceptance on the urgency of sustainable development. However, the “green trend” seems to further marginalise the poorer population, being unable to afford mainstream “green" technology (e.g. wind turbines, solar panels etc.). There is an urgent need to allow access for these communities to more sustainable solutions, empowering them to harness socio-economic and environmental benefits of technological progress. There are few green developmental models that have managed to directly connect the benefits of the Green Agenda to poor local communities in South Africa.

This project combines a participatory approach and with the Green Agenda, in order to promote sustainable social impact that creates greener alternatives to livelihoods within poor and marginalised communities. The multidisciplinary work combines design with sustainable social development strategies, generating localised low-tech alternatives that can be replicated by other local communities, while supporting individual livelihoods within township communities in the Eastern Cape.

The project promotes community acceptance and ownership of alternative technologies, using a bottoms-up approach. This shift advocates a direct involvement and buy-in by local communities into the use of alternative green technologies.

The social impact of the project is seen through different entrepreneurs whom the project supports. All of them are representatives of SMEs (small and medium enterprises), strategically supported to promote livelihoods through green entrepreneurship at a micro-economic level, which in turn should sustain the social-economic impact created.

The project is also successful in its collaborative thinking, enhancing the cooperation between academic institutions in Germany and South Africa, by promoting a hands-on methodology from which the students directly benefit. The international team raises up to a global challenge by providing localised greener solutions as replicable prototypes. At the same time cultural barriers and beliefs are further broken down, while tolerance, understanding and friendship are further advanced. The project gives a glimpse of the great potential in its different layers of activities (right from the green challenge, via academic methodology, to a social and developmental approach), hinting towards newer ways provided by this globally thinking collaboration. This opens greater possibility and excitement on how the project will advance.

Kevin M Kimwelle