The Blue Fund supports Blue Flag drive along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline

KwaZulu-Natal has a spectacular coastline, with many of the towns along its edge relying on the natural beauty of the area, plus the warm waters of the ocean, to attract visitors both locally and internationally. It is for this reason that WESSA (The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa), through their National Coastal Programme, have undertaken a drive to increase the number of Blue Flag beaches along the KZN coast. The Blue Flag programme for beaches, marinas and boats is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and facilitated in South Africa by WESSA. The programme promotes sustainable development in freshwater and marine areas while challenging local authorities and beach operators to achieve high standards in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety.

The additional energy being funnelled into this project comes from a new strategic partnership launched between Grindrod Financial Services and Wildlands Conservation Trust. Through this unique partnership, The Blue Fund was created with an aim to focus on the sustainable development of coastal communities and conservation of coastal marine ecosystems. “Wildlands have always been driven by a vision to transform and uplift communities and the environment,” said Wildlands CEO Dr Andrew Venter. “When we were approached by Grindrod with the idea to develop The Blue Fund the synergy with the sustainability work we already implement across the country could not be ignored, and we decided the fund was a perfect fit for us.”

“Grindrod has its roots in the maritime industry and with this comes an intense understanding of the environmental issues that pose a threat to communities in general,” said David Polkinghorne, MD of Grindrod Bank Limited. “Grindrod Bank and Grindrod Asset Management have an active interest in transforming and enriching South Africa, and as such have created The Blue Fund”. The Blue Fund has assisted WESSA with the necessary resources required for three significant beaches to achieve their Blue Flag status, namely Pennington, Blythedale and Mtunzini. By achieving Blue Flag status, it is hoped that the relevant municipalities will prove that they are serious about conservation and tourism in their respective areas.

“The Blue Flag Programme is critical to the management of our coastal resources,” said Ted Knott, Business Unit Leader of the National Coastal programme for WESSA. “It is important from the perspective of Biodiversity Conservation, Environmental Education, Employment Creation and Tourism.  In the absence of a National Funder, support from the Blue Fund – specifically as we grow the programme in KZN – is invaluable.”

The Blue Fund is currently supporting an additional two projects along the South African coastline. The first is WESSA’s Ntsubane Forest Complex Management & Sustainable Livelihoods project in the Port St Johns area of the Eastern Cape. It involves working with crafters in product development and ensuring responsible and sustainable harvesting of craft resources from the coastal forests of the Wild Coast. The second, the establishment of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary near Gansbaai in the Western Cape, is being implemented by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.