The Directorate: Sustainable Livelihoods oversees the implementation of a portfolio of technology transfer pilot projects, with a bias towards rural areas and natural resource sectors (demonstration agronomy, aquaculture and agroprocessing), located in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, the Free State and Limpopo.

Sustainable Livelihoods aims to inform and influence the use of science and technology to achieve inclusive development, using knowledge products it creates from policy reviews and project information to support local innovation systems and small enterprise development.  It pilots the implementation of mature technologies that may serve the economic development interests of a community.  For example, projects to grow foods, essential oils and medicinal plants (demonstration agronomy) include people in isolated rural settlements and land reform areas in new value chains. The pilot projects also provide human capital and skills development.


Innovation Partnership for Rural Development programme

Agricultural Promotion and Enhancement

The implementation of a portfolio of bioeconomy pilot projectsstarted, in earnest, in 2010. The portfolio was designed to include a wide range of agro-ecological zones (the west coast, south coast and east coast, inland areas, mountains, and semi-desert plains). The plant and fish species chosen for use at pilot projects are all in demand, most are indigenous, some are rare and slow growing, and a few are highly prized in nutrition/medicine.

In 2013, an important shift towards the agroprocessing of bulk locally grown fruit was made, growing capacity to provide incubation of agricultural small enterprises in an attempt to adopt a systemic approach to deploying science, technology and innovation.

In several instances, science councils took a conscious decision to promote the production of new species in a local economy. In other instances, the species were already well known and accepted as valuable production choices by the community. Projects are implemented in accordance with the relevant legal frameworks.

With the experience and information gathered over the past years, Sustainable Livelihoods plans to form new institutional arrangements to work with local economic development planners, financiers, grassroots innovators, local government and implementers, so that the potential of local/priority value chains can be unlocked by deploying science, technology and innovation.


  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

o   Enterprise Creation for Development

o   Biosciences

  • Agricultural Research Council

o   Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute

o   Institute for Soil, Climate and Water

o   Infruitec

  • Sasol ChemCity
  • Stellenbosch University


Ms Busisiwe Ntuli

Director: Technology for Sustainable Livelihoods

012 843 6429

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Engineering News article on essential oils project in the Eastern Cape (23 Sept. 2013)

African Centre for Gene Technologies

Botanical Supplies Unit and Clinical Supplies Unit

CSIR media release (March 2011)

The CSIR and Afriplex – partners in bringing health solutions

Media Club South Africa (11 March 2013)

Mozzie candle creates buzz


GCIS Bioeconomy Portfolio - Project Introduction

Science Direct enthnopharmacology article, Current perspectives on an emerging formal natural products sector in South Africa, published 28 October 2008.

University of Johannesburg

Indigenous Plant Use Forum

Water SA, 2007

African leafy vegetables in South Africa


The Directorate: Sustainable Human Settlements is part of the Chief Directorate: Innovation for Inclusive Development of Programme 5: Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships.

The purpose of the directorate is to use knowledge, evidence and learning to inform and influence government policy on human settlements and technology choices for the creation of sustainable human settlements.


Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme

This Department of Science and Technology (DST) initiative is funded by the European Union's General Budget Support programme, through the National Treasury. It has demonstration projects in 27 priority district municipalities across the country. The projects all focus on the use of the latest appropriate technology to address the problems of South Africa's rural areas. Usually, the people in these areas are among the country's poorest and least advantaged citizens, often lacking the basic components of a dignified and healthy modern life such as potable water, effective sanitation and electricity. These projects all deal with water in various ways.

The DST, together with its implementing entities and project teams, in designing, adapting and implementing these projects, aims for social benefits beyond the provision of water, sanitation and electricity, and therefore considers, for example, each project's contribution to capacity building and to supporting SMEs and communities; the resolution of problems; the policy issues raised; the project's sustainability; and its potential for wider application.

Various technologies are currently being piloted.  These include the Corrective Action Requests Report System, which can be used by ordinary citizens to report incidents such as water leaks, water supply disruptions and water quality issues, so that problems can be dealt with before they escalate into major incidents.

Algae wastewater treatment technologies, a low-power solution to the wastewater problems of small rural towns, are also being piloted. Algal systems do not need highly qualified personnel to operate and maintain them. They use very little electricity and, by removing various substances from the effluent, contribute to maintaining the cleanliness of the river systems into which the effluent ultimately flows.

Another sanitation-related technology project involves low pour flush technology, which centres on the provision of decent toilets in rural areas without the waterborne sewage systems typical of better-off urban areas. The pit latrines generally used in such areas tend to smell and are visually unappealing; they fill relatively quickly; and they can be dangerous for small children. The low pour flush system addresses all these problems.

There is also a point-of-use water purification project, which promotes robust and easy-to-use domestic water filters as a solution to the health problems related to drinking water in rural areas, which is often drawn from rivers and other sources that may be polluted with pathogens.

It is difficult to provide remote rural areas with electricity from the national grid. The small-scale hydropower project is testing the use of small-scale hydroelectric plants in suitable locations, greatly improving the lives of local people and generating commercial opportunities for instance in tourism, which would otherwise be difficult to exploit. The DST is also piloting smart geysers, which harness modern digital technology to the patterns and requirements of a particular household, saving money and reducing the use of electricity.

Hydrogen fuel cells

The DST is funding a project at Poelano High School, near Ventersdorp in the North West, to demonstrate the technologies developed by the Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) centres of competence. The centres have jointly undertaken a project to develop a 2,5 kW off-grid primary power hydrogen fuel cell prototype for rural applications.

ICT-enabled agricultural extension and advisory services

The DST, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have been piloting a model for ICT-enabled extension and advisory services since 2014/15.  A pilot project to explore business opportunities for young unemployed agriculture graduates in the provision of extension services is under way using a mobile app developed by the ARC. The graduates act as brokers between knowledge producers (e.g. researchers) and users (farmers). The project currently supports approximately 560 farmers through the provision of technical know-how, market insights and research updates to inform their decisions.

Technology for rural education and development

The DST has for some years been collaborating with the Department of Basic Education on a programme to showcase the application of technology to support rural education in South Africa. The programme tests the extent to which new technologies and technologies that have been applied in other contexts may improve education in a rural context. The initial pilot was demonstrated in the Eastern Cape, Cofimvaba District, in 26 schools. The technologies demonstrated were information and communication technologies, alternative sanitation technologies, renewable energy, e-health and nutrition. 

The DST, through the CSIR Meraka Institute, is providing technical support to ensure that the benefits of the project are ongoing at all 26 schools in the Cofimvaba School District.

South African Sanitation Technology Demonstration Programme

The South African Sanitation Technology Demonstration Programme is a partnership between the DST and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot various innovative and affordable sanitation technologies identified through the Bill & Melinda Gates global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

Spatial and Temporary Evidence for Planning in South Africa

Spatial and Temporary Evidence for Planning in South Africa (StepSA) is an initiative aimed at enhancing the national capability to profile and simulate the spatial implications of growth and development in cities and towns in support of high-impact and sustainable public investment and effective governance. The project aims to enhance South African metropolitan municipalities' access to urban modelling capability to support their infrastructure planning and investment processes.

Sustainable human settlements landscape survey

The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Landscape Study on Sustainable Human Settlements, which began in 2016, aims to develop an STI database for the collation of information on key small and medium enterprises (SMEs), that are involved in the creation of sustainable human settlements using various STI products or practice.  The database will be used to facilitate interaction between selected SMEs and potential support organisations.

System for collecting information on DST proxy indicators

The system developed by the CSIR Modelling and Digital Science Division makes it possible for information on proxy indicators to be extracted from a variety of documents, so that it can be analysed and interpreted to measure progress in achieving the goals specified in the DST's Strategic Plan (2015-2020).

Innovative building technology

The aim of the innovative building technology initiative, which the DST is implementing through the CSIR Built Environment Division, is to use building STI to improve quality of life. The initiative is demonstrating that STI can reduce the cost of utilities (water, electricity and waste removal) to the tenant, the municipality, and the nation as a whole, while also improving the environmental quality of the housing unit, the complex and the surrounding community.  STI are being used to create sustainable human settlements in the Germiston Social Housing Project in Gauteng.


Director: Sustainable Human Settlements
Tel.: 012 843 6466
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.