The idea of a green economy is gaining momentum both in South Africa and around the world, but there is much more still to be done. Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) sees the green economy as an essential path forward for humanity. This is why we focus on Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Investment (CSI) projects that incorporate green economy principles.

What is the green economy?

In its simplest form, the green economy represents a move away from rigid, linear economic structures towards a more resilient, flexible, and cyclical approach. 

“Instead of a straight line… harvesting raw materials, to manufacturing, to use, to the landfill, we need to loop that line into a circle,” explains Lauren Hermanus, a green economic development specialist.

A green economy creates circularities between different parts of the value chain. This fosters self-sustaining localised economies comprising smaller companies and communities that support one another. Under the current economic model, in contrast, many corporations prioritise profits over the well-being of employees and the public. Our economies currently incentivise overconsumption, degrade communal bonds, and destroy natural wealth

The green economy is much more complex than just a shift in economic mindset, though. By promoting economic self-sustainability, localised green economies can support and be supported by conservation and environmental efforts. This includes local job creation and the reuse of waste, such as using biological waste for compost. Jobs created by these new links create more jobs, branching into an organic, self-sustaining network.

Corporate investment empowers communities

By forming reciprocal connections between different supply chain elements, the green economy empowers communities to become self-sufficient and food secure. This is increasingly important as global crises place traditional value chains under threat and food prices fluctuate wildly. When this happens, disadvantaged communities in developing countries tend to suffer most.

A green economy approaches the economy, investment, capital and infrastructure and employment and skills through a lens of positive social and environmental outcomes. Green economies view natural resources as critical economic assets to be nurtured and sustained, rather than commodities to use and discard.

The UN notes that these green investments must be enabled and supported through targeted public expenditure, policy reforms, and taxation and regulation changes. Significant buy-in is also needed from the private sector to make meaningful changes on an industrial scale. Multi-stakeholder partnerships between the private sector, NGOs, and local communities can accelerate and consolidate sustainable changes in both consumption and production patterns.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) notes that the government has committed to investing in and growing the green economy for over a decade. Unfortunately, many South Africans still don’t know what this means or the opportunities it provides. For this reason, CSIR first published its guide to the Green Economy in 2014, to “provide a concise understanding of the green economy, and to relate this to South Africa’s unique development pathway”.

The importance of investing in Agroecology

The Guide highlights increased investment in sustainable agroecology as an imperative. It recommends focusing agricultural production on increasing food security, improving livelihoods, and creating resilient ecosystems. FTFA’s various CSI projects do exactly that, as well as empower women – another core green economy principle.

Agroecology is a vital component of all green economies. Moving away from industrial single-crop farming towards biodiverse, regenerative agriculture based on permaculture principles increases a farming operation’s resilience. It also increases productivity and puts control of food security back in the hands of local communities.

Meaningful CSI initiatives with FTFA power the green economy

FTFA’s food forest initiative, community market gardens, and other projects support agroecology principles. Our EduPlant School Gardening and Nutrition Programme is the largest and most impactful programme of its kind in the country, while our Permaculture Starter Packs provide the tools and training needed to set up self-sustaining market gardens that support local communities.

All of FTFA’s CSI projects uplift communities and kickstart self-sustaining green economies. Projects based on permaculture and agroecology principles can help to actively restore ecosystems degraded by conventional agriculture, starting by improving soil fertility with organic waste.

Planting trees – the focus of our Trees for All and Trees for Homes and community nurseries projects – is another vital component of the green economy, helping to reduce atmospheric carbon and providing a range of other benefits.

Investment in our country’s natural resources and our people is now more crucial than ever. By supporting a CSI project that enables the green economy or donating to FTFA, your organisation can help to drive South Africa towards a more sustainable future. Please contact us to find out more.

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