Wealth creation through green economy in urban areas : a case study of poor urban women's use of environmental services to generate income in Msunduzi Municipality, South Africa.
Urbanisation is an inevitable process that creates opportunities for economic growth and development, however, it can come at the cost of urban poverty and environmental degradation - two of the greatest challenges facing policy-makers. The global failure to develop in a sustainable manner has led to the adoption of green economy in the context of poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Given South Africa’s high rates of urbanisation, the nation’s government, in partnership with civil society and the private sector, is taking steps to green its economy, with the transition ranging from large-scale solar installation projects to small-scale grassroots level projects where the green jobs are created for the poor, predominantly women, by paying them for environmental services. This research investigates how urban poor women in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, under the management of a local environmental non-governmental organisation (ENGO), Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT), are using the green economy concept to generate income and contribute to environmental sustainability. Using a case study approach, three areas were selected in which semi-structured questionnaires were administered to women who are involved in a ‘green-preneurship’ initiative, consisting of three project nodes, namely, waste-, tree-, and food-preneurship. The women registered under the project collect and segregate waste for sale to the ENGO (waste-preneurs), while others grow indigenous trees for sale to the ENGO (tree-preneurs), and some grow food crops for subsistence and sale of any excess to community members (food-preneurs). The project is reducing poverty levels and empowering the women both economically and socially. Furthermore, while the primary incentive for participating in the green economy initiative was found to be financial, the project has helped to raise environmental awareness and is a mechanism through which women can contribute to environmental sustainability. Their voluntary participation in the project indicates the importance of urban poor women to green economy. This role stems from understanding the importance of the environment to their livelihood, and in this regard, green economy can be said to be addressing the social and environmental externalities of urbanisation, with women at the forefront.