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Waterberg District (Limpopo River Basin, South Africa)

Socio-Economic Development

Three sectors dominate Waterberg's economy: mining, tourism, and agriculture. The district is a critical mining region in South Africa due to its abundance of platinum, iron ore, coal, and diamonds. As a result, the mining sector reached a gross added value of 56% in 2018. Nonetheless, Waterberg's general economic growth (measured by GDP) shrunk, with an annual growth rate of -0.57% (Department of Environmental Affairs, n.d.).

The mining sector employs about 33% of the workforce, 17% are employed in trade, and only 7.1% are working in the agricultural sector, even though Waterberg district has the largest share of agricultural areas within the Limpopo Province (Department of Environmental Affairs, n.d.).

Household Characteristics

There are 211,471 households in the municipality, with an average household size of 3.5. About 85% of the households were formal dwellings, and 15% of families living in informal structures or shacks (Stats SA, 2016). In the Limpopo Province, only 4.83% of households are informal dwellings (Department of Environmental Affairs, n.d.).

There are more males than females in the age category of 25-44 living in the municipality. Commonly, young males migrate to Waterberg District Municipality and, in particular, to the city of Lephalale, looking for jobs in the mining and energy sector. However, the district's unemployment rate was 28.8% in 2018. In addition, it is important to stress that Waterberg District has a Gini coefficient of 0.609, indicating very high-income inequality (Department of Environmental Affairs, n.d.).

A closer look at Waterberg

Given that the Waterberg District is a pilot area within the Open Science to Support Water Security in Southern Africa (OWASA) research project, subsections with further description of that Limpopo disctrict are presented on this basin's page.

Waterberg District lies within the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The spatial extent of Waterberg District is about 44,913 km². The Waterberg District is divided into five local municipalities: Mogalakwena, Modimolle-Mookgopong, Belabela, Thabazimbi, and Lephalala (Tjale et al., 2022).

Moreover, the Waterberg is the first region in northern South Africa with a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Tourism is the primary source of income for the locals living in the Biosphere Reserve. Agricultural activities are also practiced (Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, n.d.).

Waterberg district’s climate is semi-arid, and limited water resources. However, the population uses most of the land area for agricultural purposes, mainly commercial farming. The farmers’ cash and field crops are cottons, sunflower, maize, wheat, and sorghum. Other agricultural activities include horticulture and livestock production (Netshipale et al., 2022). Besides agriculture, mining iron, platinum, and coal remain a primary economic activity within the district ( Department of Environmental Affairs, n.d.).

From a hydrological perspective, five catchments fall within the administrative boundaries of the Waterberg District: The Lower Crocodile River Sub-catchment, the Mokolo (or Mogol) River Catchment, the Lephalala River Catchment, Mogalakwena River Catchment, and a small area of the Olifants River Catchment. Most of these rivers flow towards the North-West and drain into the Limpopo River Basin.

Landuse in the Waterberg District and the Limpopo River Basin

Figure 1: Landuse in the Waterberg District and the Limpopo River Basin (Map by Juan Miguel Viquez & Daniel Knopp).

Due to low rainfall in the Waterberg District, land uses such as farming and conservation compete with high-intensity land uses such as urban development and mining. Therefore, sustainable water and general resource management is a crucial challenge for the region.

References:

Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (n.d.): Waterberg Profile. Available at: https://www.cogta.gov.za/ddm/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Take2_2020.06.15-WATERBERG-DISTRICT-PROFILE-Edited-Version-final_V1.pdf

Stats SA (2016): Waterberg District Municipality. Published via: https://municipalities.co.za/demographic/130/waterberg-district-municipality

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