Site visit to Victoria Yards Dutch Delegation

Date: 4 July 2023

Location: Victoria Yards, Johannesburg, South Africa

Purpose: Pre-visit to explore the feasibility of Victoria yards as a site for the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science’s Knowledge Mission to South Africa later in the year


Dutch Embassy delegation:

1. Berto Bosscha – Education & Science Counsellor (Embassy of the Netherlands)

2. Gerbert Kunst – Director of International Policy, MOCW (Ministry of Education, Culture & Science)

3. Ilene van Brouwershaven – Policy Officer, MOCW

4. Gaby Allard – MBO Raad (the TVET-branche organization in the Netherlands) 

5. Titia Bredée – Director of Nufffic

6. Huba Boshoff- Director of Nuffic, Southern Africa 

7. Rikus Lemmer – Where2 Transportation (driver)

8. Teuns Phahlamohlaka NRF 

Eco-Imagining WEF team

1. Vijay Makanjee – Ruliv (NPO)

2. Bertha Chiroro- Gender CC (NPO)

3. Marius Marais- University of Limpopo

4. Hannelie Coetzee-Eco-Artist

5. Sandra van Oostenbrugge, Thando and Mam Dezz- The People’s Pantry (NPO)

6. Hector Dibakoane-Makers’ Valley

7. Memory Reid-University of the Witwatersrand (Postdoc)

8. Lucy Kofi- University of the Witwatersrand (PhD student)

9. Dineo Mtetwa- University of the Witwatersrand (PhD student)

10. Mulweli Mainganya- University of the Witwatersrand (Honours student)

Introduction: The Ecological Engagements (Eco-imagining) WEF team hosted a delegation from The Embassy of the Netherlands in South Africa, together with representatives from the Netherlands Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), at Victoria Yards, in Johannesburg’s Inner-city space on the 4th of July 2023.

Objective: The main objective of this visit was to assess the suitability of Victoria Yards to host the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science’s Knowledge Mission to South Africa in October 2023. The three common threads for the knowledge mission will be:

    • Equal chances and social justice
    • Connection between labour market and education/science (including skills development)
    • Green and just energy transition.

    It also gave the delegation an opportunity to interact with members and partners of the Eco-imaging WEF team and observe some of the established programmes and networks, that support the objectives of the project in Victoria Yards and the commendable efforts of the Victoria Yards in supporting local initiatives against the harsh backdrop of the inner city.

    Program Highlights:

    Site Visit: After being treated to a light snack and refreshments, the delegation embarked on a guided tour by Hector Dibakoane, the Community Lead Manager of Maker’s Valley (a young creative and change maker) to various sites in Victoria Yards, where artisan studios, skills development centres, visual arts and urban farming enthusiasts are tenants in this creative space and showcase various talents and interests that cover an array of disciplines. These demonstrated how the Victoria Yards Community is actively participating in resource management and conservation projects that are also inclusive and showcased inspiring examples of repurposed spaces, sustainable infrastructure, and community-driven initiatives that have successfully addressed resource insecurities.

    Interaction with Local Creatives and Showcasing Projects: Representatives from the delegation had the opportunity to engage in dialogues and exchanges with local creatives, artists, and community leaders, together with project partners and researchers. This interaction fostered mutual learning and provided a platform for sharing best practices and experiences. The visit included presentations and demonstrations of projects supported by the Netherlands-South Africa collaboration, where the team shared how they are: 1) applying a transdisciplinary approach and 2) applying the WEF Nexus in the urban context. Project partners based at Victoria Yards and researchers working within the same space gave the presentations below:

    • Gender CC, a network that seeks to integrate gender justice into climate change policy at local, national, and international levels gave a brief description of their work within Victoria Yards and how it extends beyond the complex, capacitating and empowering women in sustaining urban agriculture practices to sustain their livelihoods.
    • Hannelie Coetzee, an Eco artist who focuses on the interaction between art and science showcased her take on sustainable ablution facilities by demonstrating one of her recent pieces.
    • The People’s Pantry, an organisation advocating for food sovereignty in South Africa by implementing plans to combat hunger, food wastage and climate change gave a brief description of the challenges and opportunities in addressing hunger in urban areas and redirecting food pathways that limit food waste.
    • Makers Valley, a community of creative entrepreneurs, highlighted the different platforms they create for young innovative individuals encored on sustainable practices. Hector, a UN Live Portal Guardian explained how he has been using the portal to engage with various young people, through cross-border conversations, sharing experiences and solutions for young people across various disciplines throughout the world. 
    • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Memory Reid together with PhD student, Lucy Khofi, also shared their perspectives on the work at Victoria Yards and their experiences conducting research and interacting with the community as they adopt multiple approaches to establish access to WEF resources and establish security where resources are commoditised in urban settings. 
    • The team was also fortunate to witness a team from Water for the Future, also based at Victoria Yards, working on a water monitoring along the Juskei River, whose mouth is less a kilometre from Victoria Yards. Dr Romy Stander explained the challenges they face is keeping the water from the river clean as it is polluted mainly by sewage and other industrial waste from the source. 

    The conversations carried on with discussions on how collaborative efforts, regardless how small have meaningful impacts. There was a sense that bottom-up approaches in addressing access to resources seemingly go a long way, and such examples like those demonstrated at Victoria Yards need to reach wider audiences. Additionally, capacity building is necessary to see such initiatives taken in the fields of art, culture, and education blossom. These projects have been instrumental in empowering communities to harness their creativity for sustainable development and creating opportunities for enhanced participation in addressing resource insecurity challenges and fostering a vibrant creative economy.

    Expected Outcomes and conclusion:

    In October the Dutch minister for Education, Culture and Science will come to South Africa with a Knowledge Mission. He will be accompanied by around 25 high level representatives from the Dutch TVET- and Higher Education sector and from the Science sector. We remain optimistic that Victoria Yards will be selected to host this delegation. The visit to Johannesburg’s Inner-City Space holds immense potential for mutual growth and partnership. Furthermore, exchange of ideas and experiences between the Netherlands and South Africa in the realm of sustainable resource management, creativity, and cultural preservation is envisaged. Identification of potential areas for collaboration and partnership between Dutch organizations, local enterprises, and South African institutions to address resource insecurity could support local approaches to improving access to resources in urban areas. Inspiration can be drawn from these bottom-up efforts, gaining valuable insights from successful initiatives in Johannesburg that can be adapted and implemented in other regions to address similar challenges. 

    In conclusion, the current visit and the envisaged future visit represents a significant step towards enhancing diplomatic ties and reinforcing the strong bond between the Netherlands and South Africa by fostering cultural understanding and promoting sustainable development goals. Its natures innovation and creativity as tools to combat resource insecurity, whilst strengthening bilateral ties and contribute to the sustainable development of both nations.

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