German-South African Summer School

German-South African Summer School "Conceptualizing Green Villages" successfully finished

During 10 days in March members of the Steering Committee of the EcoSUN project from the Departments of Science and Technology, and of Human Settlements, of Nelson Mandela University and of Ndlambe Municipality joint the German-South African Summer School "Conceptualizing Green Villages" at Potsdam University. The delegation was chaired by Tshepang Mosiea, director STI in Human Settlements, of DST. Main issue was to clarify how to define Green Villages, which kinds of technologies would fit into the set-up of such a village, and which examples and experiences exist in Germany. The results have to be interpreted and a clear way forward for the realization of the EcoSUN Green Village project in Ndlambe Municipality defined. A detailed schedule of the Summer School had been discussed in the months before its start and the most important issues were selected by the teams. As a result a variety of institutions and project sites were visited and relevant aspects of the project discussed.

Project visits of activities relevant to EcoSUN

As a starting event the delegation was honored by an invitation by the President of the Houses of Representatives of the Land of Berlin, and a fruitful discussion followed with the chairwoman and members of the Committee of Town Planning and Infrastructure.

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Berlin Members of Parliament Ms Radziwill and Mr Otto discussed with the delegation

It was important for the politicians to learn that two of the German project partners were Berlin based, and for the delegates to understand in which way Berlin managed to overcome the shortages of flats after World War II, and the recent immigration of large numbers of refugees.

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Visit to the Plenary Hall gave also chance to "speak to the Audience", as Tshepang did

Some examples of town quarters recently built showed small town houses and infrastructure components. Included was a visit of one of the privately organized and operated so-called Neighborhood Centers. The most important aspect which the delegates learnt was that many projects started only as independent private initiatives where people had in mind to improve their own living situation. Only afterwards it was supported by the government of Berlin. That means such a centre is not necessarily government driven, but comes from the grass roots. As an example, the Ufa Fabrik Neighborhood Centre includes flats, a theater, a small internet cafe, a kindergarden, gym, living spaces,kids playing ground, but also activities of the civil society such as language training courses, kids nursing courses, or meetings of elderly people and kids, and training courses for unemployed people. It was also important to see that modern green technologies including rain water harvesting and treatment, grey water recycling, solar energy use or biogas from waste were applied to make the Centre "green" but also self sufficient to a certain extent, and reduce their costs. This type of technology is also planned for the EcoSUN project in Ndlambe, and the Multipurpose Centre shall be equipped in a similar way. The Chair person of the project told us that they now became part to an Advisory Committee of the United Nations in the Millennium program to popularize the idea - a big steps forward and a result of intensive long term endeavour. Indeed this is not a blue print for a township project in RSA however a lot can be learnt about the principles.

Visits to Project sites and relevant Institutions

Since the grey water treatment is one of the key issues of the EcoSUN project with respect to sanitation and proper water management it was very instructive for the delegation to give the grey water demonstration plant in Berlin a visit. The plant is situated in the very heart of the City of Berlin near Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburg Gate, and it services several hundred people in communal flats. Grey water from kitchen, bath room and showers - strictly excluding fecal waters from toilets -, are collected, treated biologically and are used as Service water at a high quality level defined by the European Union, for laundry, irrigation and/or toilet flushing. This approach is different to the approach in South Africa where Grey water is used directly, and the Water Research Commission is active to define under which conditions such kind of grey water use would be possible. It was so good that Erwin Nolde who is the leading figure in Grey water treatment in Germany was able to explain all the details to give the delegates full insight into the technology. As the Ndlambe council member Cllr. Mazana summarized he now will be able to explain the technology to the people and make them understand that this is a safe proper solution for many water related problems they are faced with.

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Project partner Erwin Nolde explaining the grey water treatment station

There were two workshops with special departments of the German Federal Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt), in Berlin and in the headquarters in the town of Dessau. The Berlin based German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt) is dealing with the cost-effectively reducing of greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industrial facilities in Germany which for our project may offer chances for financing of additional components of the EcoSUN project that are not yet fully covered,  via developing EcoSUN as an example of Carbon Trade in human settlements. Involvement of other RSA departments such as communication, economic development and business, basic education, energy, water, health, sports etc. - as Jennifer Mirembe stressed, would certainly help to bring the project into a favorite position to become part of such bi-lateral Carbon Trade activities.

C:akepathProf MbangaProf Mbanga presenting basic ideas of the South African human settlements strategy

In Dessau the management of organic waste and composting, both strategic elements of each and every sustainability oriented projects were discussed. Further cooperation and advice from their side was offered and accepted. Next to the Environmental Agency is Bauhaus museum situated - a place where the typical worldwide respected Bauhaus ideas were first developed in the 1920th and 30th. It was very instructive to see that the Dessau Toerten village built in 1929 by Gropius and his team had the same ideas in mind which are the base of the South African human settlements strategy: houses at prices which can be afforded by low income groups such as young working class families. This was possible only by smart ground plans of the flats,  by using alternative building material such as industrial recycling components, and innovative technologies, for high quality architecture. And a small garden was foreseen for every house on a 100 sqm plot to help the families grow their own good quality vegetables and fruit, and to have a private area for meetings with neighbors, and the house able to "grow" if families grow or another room for business was needed. How surprising that nearly 90 years ago such ideas were thought and - realized and the buildings are in so good a shape so long after their construction.

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World heritage Bauhaus settlement Dessau Toerten built by Gropius in 1929

Agreements with Brandenburg scientific institutions

The meeting of the delegation with the Vice President for International Affairs of Potsdam University, Prof. Schweikert,  was another highlight. It took place in one of the Park Sanssouci castles near Neues Palais building were the University proudly resides.

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The delegation on their way from Neues Palais to the meeting with Vice President

The University traditionally has strong connections to Africa including agreements with four RSA universities. Several BMBF and DST funded projects were already managed by the University. The input of Nelson Mandela University, presented by Prof. Mbanga made clear that both universities have similar intentions and future perspectives, especially in the fields of digitalization and eHealth, management of natural resources and renewable energies. Vocational education and sport were considered topics which could support the acceptance of the EcoSUN project in the community in the project region. Therefore it was agreed that during the next visit to South Africa of the President and his delegation they will also visit Nelson Mandela University and negotiate in which way to cooperate. BMBF project management staff member Dr. Schwegmann explained the programs of this department to support sustainability related projects and cooperation chances of German and South African partner institutions. Vice President Prof. Schweikert honoured the delegates with a Certificate of Attendance.

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The delegation with their Certificates of Attendance handed over at the terraces of the University main building

On the very final day another meeting was organized with the Centre of Vocational training of the Land of Brandenburg. This centre deals with training of handicraft workers in all professions of the building industry such as brick layers, plumbers or electricians. Very nicely equipped workshops teach the learners how to apply the theoretical knowledge, and in the dual educational scheme they in rotation work as part of the  teams in their companies.

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Learning by doing is a pre-condition for good handicraft workers, says Dr. Mirembe (left)

A Letter of Intent was signed with Nelson Mandela University. The intention is to develop a curriculum for a kind of a technician who will be able to manage the EcoSUN technology and other kinds of innovative machinery and facilities. Negotiations with German and RSA funding institutions will follow to make sure that such a curriculum will fit into the intentions of the Department of Higher Education and Training on the one hand, and the German scheme of Dual Vocational training on the other hand.

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Prof Mbanga and Mr Buckram, director of the Brandenburg Vocational training Centre sign an LoI


Results achieved

The results of the Summer School included the definition of what "Green Village" means  and a update of the Concept Document and the project realization schedule. As Director Tshepang Mosiea summarized: "We are looking at this as a pilot because in our South African context we will than take it as a show case as it could be a program for smart settlements and for smart living", and Prof. Mbanga added that "the difference is how you combine different elements of energy, water and landscape design in a single settlement including the building infrastructure conform to the green economy principles in South Africa. This is fairly new. We don't have a footprint of that in South Africa".

It was agreed that the Steering committee will meet every 3 months, and technical committees monthly to control project progress to be sure that the demonstration unit will be realized in the time frame expected.

Moreover the Summer School gave the partners from both countries the chance to learn more about each other's cultural background and the ideas and intentions everybody has in mind when thinking of the EcoSUN Project. Some of the statements by the members of the delegation were summarized in the recap film that was produced by a German film team during the meetings. The presentations of all participants will be published electronically in the Summer School Proceedings in cooperation of both universities.