Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme - IPRDP

Blue Drop (drinking water) and Green Drop (wastewater) certifications are key measures of the quality and safety of water provided by municipalities and their service providers.  This can be particularly important in areas where the economy depends heavily on tourism.


Planning for water safety and wastewater risk abatement is essential for the sustainable and reliable provision of services. 


A project was initiated in April 2014 to assist in the assessment of current practices at selected municipalities, and to provide guidance and technical support where required.  The project also assisted in the development of new risk management processes for both water and wastewater in district municipalities, and of capacity among municipal officials.


The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the target provinces for the first roll-out of the project.  The project started with a review of risk management practices for both water and wastewater in each of the 12 district municipalities identified, to see where they were most vulnerable.  Aspects such as the planning team, system assessment, hazard and risk assessment, corrective actions, and monitoring and evaluation were considered.


Water safety plan scores ranged from a low of 37,75% in Alfred Nzo District Municipality, to 86,69% in Ugu District Municipality.  Wastewater risk abatement plans saw even lower average scores, with the lowest score (11%) found in Uthungulu District Municipality.  In contrast, Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape had a 100% average wastewater risk abatement plan score.  From this initial assessment, it was evident that some municipalities needed more support than others.


It was found that most district municipalities had challenges with monitoring and evaluation, documentation and communication procedures, management and support programmes, and plan reviews.  While municipalities were aware of risks, they had difficulty in working out action plans to mitigate them.  Workshops were conducted to help them do so. In addition, new safety plans were crafted at selected municipalities, and technical support and skills transfer was emphasised. 


Finally, a qualitative assessment of the new plans was completed.  The project team also carried out a sample survey at the close out of the project in December 2016, to establish the impact of the risk management support, the understanding of risk management processes, and where support was still required.


Water safety planning and wastewater risk abatement plan video


Implementing agent


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300

One project looking at the treatment of wastewater involves algal-based tertiary treatment in maturation ponds of at wastewater treatment works.  The project established a self-sustaining system, independent of electricity or expensive chemicals, to allow for the effective removal of nutrients and pathogens in effluent.


The project was aimed at solving problems in areas with limited resources, and infrastructure that had not been maintained. 


The project was implemented between April 2014 and December 2016 at the Motetema wastewater treatment works, in the Sekhukhune District Municipality.  The municipality has significant challenges with its water quality and sanitation services.  Three plants are at high risk and 13 at critical risk. 


The project used a selected cultured microalgae consortium to remove nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus from human waste) from saturated ponds to levels below the minimums set in Department of Water and Sanitation guidelines.  In the three ponds tested, the percentage reduction of total phosphorus in unfiltered water (containing algae) was 94%, 85% and 84% after treatment, with total nitrogen removal in these ponds 43%, 35% and 31%, respectively.


There were capacity-building events to deal with matters such as regulatory processes and sludge treatment.  An intensive capacity-building exercise took place at the treatment works, with the site controller learning how to operate the new technology.


It is hoped that the project can be replicated in other areas. In order to scale up the project, it was recommended that a licensing model be applied, allowing companies to engage with the technology, creating job opportunities and awareness.


Possibilities such as aquaculture will be investigated once the algae-based process is operating optimally.


This project had a significant impact on reducing nutrients in wastewater effluent.  In addition, the environmentally friendly treatment method supported a reduction in human health risk downstream of the wastewater treatment works.


Wastewater Treatment Works video


Implementing agencies


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300


Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

012 841 2911

While the electrification of urban areas and informal settlements in South Africa has increased rapidly in the past 20 years, the provision of electricity to rural areas is still a challenge.  Many remote areas – especially small settlements, villages or farms – are unlikely to be connected to a national grid in the foreseeable future owing to their remoteness, sparse population and relatively low average energy demands.


Small-scale hydropower schemes can therefore play a critical role in providing energy access to isolated areas in South Africa as stand-alone mini grids.  Internationally, this is considered the best proven renewable energy technology, ideal for the electrification of remote communities.


The aims of this project are as follows:

·         To prove that it is feasible and technically possible to provide small-scale hydropower installations for rural electrification in the current South African legal and policy environment.

·         To develop manuals/training material to assist prospective small-scale hydropower developers or proponents of rural electrification to deal with the technical, site evaluation, financial and regulatory aspects of such developments.

·         To evaluate the various dimensions of sustainability (technical, economic, social, environmental and institutional) of small-scale hydropower plants used for rural electrification.

·         To demonstrate technology by means of full-scale pilot plant installations, using various technologies available.

·         To ensure that successfully operating and sustainable small-scale hydropower plants are constructed.


The project is intended to provide rural communities with a grid-quality, reliable electricity supply, improving their standard of living.  It also intended to make local stakeholders (private sector, financial sector, government entities, etc.) aware of the opportunities that this technology brings. There is extensive public participation and consultation with communities to introduce the technology to them and explain how it works.


In Kwa Madiba in the Eastern Cape, for example, the small-scale hydropower system is capable of providing 54 houses with electricity.  The electricity is generated at no cost because it uses water that is already flowing in the river.


There have been 76 people actively working on the project, 32 of them employees of the Mhlontlo Local Municipality.  Eighty per cent of all building materials used in relation to the construction of the Kwa Madiba hydropower system were sourced within the OR Tambo District Municipality.


Further projects that are initiated and implemented for non-grid electrification purposes will only need to follow a registration process to obtain the required water use authorisation, and not the full water use licence application process.  This will save significant time and expense, benefiting the municipality and the communities served.  Changes to legislation achieved through the project will also make it easier to develop run-of-river hydropower schemes in the future.


The project has had a significant effect on the quality of life of the Kwa Madiba community.  Various government departments have partnered successfully in the development of this scheme, and changes in legislation and registration requirements mean that implementation of similar projects in other rural communities will now be easier. 


One challenge noted was the differences between the mandates of district and local municipalities with regard to the provision of water and electricity.  However, once this problem had been solved, the project progressed positively.  This lesson has already been factored into the second round of projects to be implemented.


Ultimately, the design of the Kwa Madiba small-scale hydropower pilot project has proven the feasibility and technical possibility such installations for rural electrification.


Small-Scale Hydro-power video


For more information contact:


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300




Water scarcity is a major challenge in South Africa, with severe water shortages in some areas of the country.  However, for various reasons (for example the free provision of basic quantities of water to connected households), water is not always perceived as a scarce commodity.


For example, many people do not realise that a washing machine consumes approximately 100 litres of potable water per load, or that a bath uses four times as much water as a shower. 


The smart geyser project was initiated to address these challenges using the influence of another resource – electricity.  By raising awareness about the cost of electricity, it was possible to spread awareness of the cost and quantity of water usage in a household too.


The project, which started in April 2016, focused on the remote control of geysers, measuring and managing electricity supply, temperature settings, and water supply.  A smart device, called the "Geasy", is attached to the geyser.  The device analyses consumption patterns, recommends and applies optimised control schedules, gives water and energy costs for each bath or shower taken, and controls the water temperature. It shuts off water supply when a burst is detected.


Minute-by-minute information is presented to users in an easily understood format, either online or through a cellphone app.  This gives households remote access to the geyser, allowing people to turn their geyser on and off, or to schedule on and off times. 


The app allows people to use only what they need.  If geysers are not on the whole time, electricity is saved.  Over 100 smart geyser devices have been installed to date, of which 77 are used daily.  The average electricity savings per month among participants is about R322.  In addition, four bursts or leaks were reported through the network. 


Local plumbers and electricians were trained to install the device on geysers, creating employment opportunities.


While the project, which ended in June 2017, was a success, some challenges were noted.  The cellphone signals in Mkhondo are weak, which was initially a setback to the project.  In addition, community members were not all technologically aware, so extensive training was required. 


Finally, there was limited uptake of the project.  In spite of a substantial marketing campaign in print and social media, there were initially difficulties in securing enough participants.  It has been suggested that a big event be held to tell people about the technologies and how they can improve their lives.


Smart Geyser video


Implementing agent


Water Research Commission

012 761 9300

The Science and Technology Youth Journalism Programme was implemented to promote interest in science and technology among disadvantaged youth. 


Given that community media tends to report mainly on crime, politics and sport, it was decided to expand the range of subject matter to cover science and technology. 


The Department of Science and Technology appointed the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) to implement the programme.  SAASTA's mandate is to advance public awareness of science, engineering, and technology in South Africa,



Launched in February 2016, the programme has been successfully implemented in partnership with various community media.  Outcomes of the project include the following:


  • Enhanced interest in science and technology in communities.
  • Recognition of indigenous and grassroots innovation existing in communities, and capturing this information in a database.
  • Recognition of the positive impact of demonstrated technologies on communities.
  • Basic science journalism skills for the youth. Candidates are evaluated at the beginning of the programme and on leaving the programme. Supervisors/mentors are also evaluated. 
  • Enhanced understanding of the importance of science and technology, and interest in innovation.


The Science and Technology Youth Journalist Programme is being implemented in district municipalities where other Innovation Partnerships for Rural Development Programme (IPRDP) demonstration projects had been carried out. It is aimed at young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 who live in these communities, as well as unemployed graduates with qualifications in science, engineering, communications and journalism.



Seventeen interns were appointed in 2015/16.  The number was increased to 34 interns during the 2016/17 financial year, and a further 28 interns were placed in 2017/18.  Among other things, interns document the highlights and report on the progress of projects implemented by the IPRDP.



Their responsibilities include compiling, organising and conducting interviews; writing, producing and compiling stories and documentaries; news reporting and writing; and the editing of radio clips.  The programme has provided practical experience and on-the-job training.

The project has dramatically increased science reporting in community media, which has benefited from an increased listenership. 

The interns have introduced science slots in community media and are engaged in other community media activities, developing their skills beyond science journalism.  They have also been exposed to various skills development initiatives, including workshops on the principles of layout and mobile video editing.  By the end of March 2017, the programme had produced the following:


  • 761 media items.
  • 100 IPRDP stories.
  •           361 general science and technology stories.
  •           300 general stories.
  •           An increase in the number of IPRDP stories.


Importantly, the use of indigenous languages gained momentum.


The enthusiasm and hard work of the interns has seen them receive accolades within their community media stations, including a nomination for best newsreader.  One intern started a radio phone-in initiative called "Science for Ubuntu". Given the success of the programme, it will be expanded to other provinces such as Gauteng and the Northern Cape. A new incentive has also been introduced; the best performing interns will have the opportunity to attend an accredited radio, print and/or television short course at a reputable university.


For more information contact:

South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement

+27 12 392 9300


  Youth Journalism Video




Switchboard: +27 12 843 6300
DST Building (Building No. 53)
(CSIR South Gate Entrance)  
Meiring Naudé Road,
Private Bag X894
South Africa

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