Thursday, August 16, 2007

Working For Water; Saving Lives

The scene: Cape Town’s world-famous Table Mountain, part of the spectacular sandstone spine of the Cape Peninsula.

The guy in the green National Parks jacket: Paddy Gordon (pictured above).

The out-of-towners: six journalists from the U.S. and U.K. on a traveling seminar sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Gordon talked to us about how eucalyptus trees and other plants that were brought to South Africa over the past 300 years have played havoc on the natural ecology of the country's majestic mountains. Eucalyptus trees, in particular, suck up lots of water from the ground robbing the life-giving liquid from native plants.

But eucalyptus trees are very hard to uproot and get rid of. Although it’s easy to teach someone how to do it, you need lots of hands to accomplish the task. Hmmm. Anyone else see the makings of a good idea?

Enter Working for Water, an initiative of the South African government, which marries the need for ecological restoration with the demand for lots of jobs for unskilled laborers in very poor comunities like Khayelitsha.

But it doesn’t stop there. Working for Water, which was launched in 1995, also teaches job skills like basic book keeping and bidding for contracts so that workers can eventually create their own businesses. In addition, the initiative conducts regular AIDS training programs as well.

Good health requires more than healthcare workers and clinics. You also need clean drinking water, jobs, basic sanitation, jobs, adequate housing, jobs, education, jobs, legal rights, and jobs. Well, you get the point.

Regular employment makes a huge difference in how healthy a community--and often even a natural environment--can be. Working for Water is helping to make that difference.

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