Collaboration with Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape.
South Africa’s township residents have been experiencing the legacy of Apartheid, poverty and constrained development opportunities for decades. On top of this, they are now seeing the effects of human-induced climate change, which exacerbate the disadvantages of these already socially and economically marginalised communities. In the Cape Flats area of South Africa, hotter, drier conditions are leading to more frequent droughts and water shortages, and contribute to increased risks of fire events. As the climate becomes more unstable, extreme precipitation events are also occurring more often, and the damage to soil structure caused by extended drought increases the risks of mudslides and flooding when heavy rains fall. People living in townships in the Cape Flats are thus already experiencing a range of environmental shocks, the impacts of which are made worse by poor infrastructure, poverty, marginalisation and overcrowding.
The Water and Fire team are working with three communities in the region to better understand residents’ experiences of and responses to the twin threats of water (both dearth and excess) and fire. Through a series of co-research and co-production activities, we are mobilising local knowledges to challenge current disaster response and risk management practices with “fifteen best bets” for “building back better”. In so doing, we hope to shift responses to drought, fire and flood events towards a more genuinely sustainable focus, and to develop local capacity to direct decision-making and policy development.
The communities we are working with are: Delft, where we are working with residents on the theme of floods; Sweethome Farm, where we are working on the theme of water shortages; and Overcome Heights, where we are working on the theme of fire. Following initial large scale household surveys, we are facilitating members of these communities in creating digital stories that illustrate their experiences and in mapping patterns of flood, water shortage or fire in the townships.
To find out more, visit the project website at https://waterandfire.wordpress.stir.ac.uk.