Ford South Africa has partnered with the Gift of the Givers Foundation to tackle the ongoing drought in Nelson Mandela Bay. With the metro’s combined dam levels currently at just 10.5%, Ford has donated R2.5-million to drill boreholes at three schools in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).

The project also provides funding for the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber (NMBBC) Adopt-a-School initiative to address water leaks and conduct much-needed plumbing maintenance at schools across the metro.

“The severe drought in Nelson Mandela Bay has resulted in the supply dams reaching their lowest levels in recorded history, with ‘day zero’ looming for local residents and businesses which will have devastating consequences for the metro,” says Neale Hill, MD of Ford South Africa. “Ford has an exceptionally long and proud history in Gqeberha since starting operations in the city in 1923, and opening the Struandale Engine Plant in 1964.

“We remain committed to supporting and assisting the communities in which we operate. Accordingly, we have partnered with Gift of the Givers Foundation by providing the R2.5-million funding for much-needed drought relief,” Hill says.

Gift of the Givers Foundation is the largest disaster response non-profit organisation (NPO) in Africa, and has implemented numerous projects across the country funded by Ford – most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation is also well-known for drilling boreholes in towns hardest hit by the drought.

“We are extremely grateful for Ford South Africa’s contribution to help tackle the crippling drought in Nelson Mandela Bay,” says Badr Kazi, director of the Gift of the Givers Foundation. “Ford has supported many of our community relief efforts, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we appreciate the ongoing support for our disaster response to assist the most vulnerable communities.

“These boreholes will make a huge difference to the local communities by providing them with water during the height of the drought,” Kazi adds. “The plumbing repairs will tackle the pervasive water leaks that plague many of the schools and only further exacerbate the dire water situation.”

Fontein Primary School in Gelvandale was the first site selected for drilling a borehole into the natural spring located on the premises – which was the origin for the school’s name (Fontein is fountain or spring in Afrikaans). Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha has assisted the school previously with annual Global Caring Month projects and, with this programme, the school’s plumbing and ablutions are being repaired to eradicate water leaks.

“Our sincere gratitude goes to Ford South Africa management and staff as well as Gift of the Givers Foundation for assisting our school in drilling and retrieving water which would otherwise have been wasted,” says Gary Groenewald, principal of Fontein Primary School.

“Children should feel free to access water, especially during this drought-stricken period and crucially during the COVID-19 pandemic where certain requirements of the protocol need to be met, such as the frequent washing of hands,” Groenewald says. “This will also assist with our ablution facilities which is a basic need and very critical for the school.”

Gift of the Givers will also be drilling boreholes and conducting plumbing repairs at Helenvale Primary School and Republiek Primary School in Bethelsdorp.

A further two schools in Gqeberha will benefit from Gift of the Givers conducting essential repairs and maintenance to their plumbing to eliminate water wastage, funded by Ford as part of the NMBBC Adopt-a-School initiative.

“Along with the boreholes and plumbing repairs, one of our key objectives is to upskill the school caretakers by using this opportunity to provide them with plumbing training,” Hill says. “This will help ensure that the work done at the schools will be better maintained and cared for. At the same time it facilitates the essential transfer of skills that will help make these interventions more sustainable to reduce water losses in the long run.”