2012 Masters Students & Topics

2012 Graduates, 60 credit minor dissertations 


Steve Arowolo

Supervised by: Dr Martine Visser

Climate Risks and Constraints to Adaptation in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case Study of Sustainable Livelihoods of Rural Poor in North-Eastern South Africa

Abstract: Sporadic natural disasters are not new to this generation, but the perennial nature of extreme climate events seems to have precipitated a calamity of monumental proportion in recent times. This is evident among poor and vulnerable communities in rural sub-Saharan Africa; this study investigates the impacts of climate shocks on households’ income, with a view to identifying possible constraints to adaptation to extreme climate events among poor households whose means of livelihoods is crop production. This study utilises the panel data collected between 2010 and 2012 from Agincourt DSS field-site among nine rural villages comprising of 897 households in North-Eastern part of South Africa. Socio-economic indicators were used as proxy variables to model the impact of households’ shocks resulting from climate risks on household livelihood strategies and vulnerability. Using the log of households’ income as a measure of household vulnerability, the results indicate that crop failure, one of the proxies for climate shocks, has a negative and significant impact on household income. The second part of this study considers possible constraints to adaptation, in particular the use of seed varieties and fertilizers. Weak social capital (membership to a farmers’ association) was identified as an important factor influencing adaptation in this study with a positive and significant impact on expenditure on seed varieties. Other constraints to adaptation seem to be the age of the household head, education and income earning activities of the household.

Full Dissertation 


Leslie Ashburner 

Supervised by: Dr Kevin Winter

Urban Wetland Conservation, Public Works Programmes and Environmental Experience of Workers In Cape Town   

Abstract: The dual contribution of environmental job creation projects to sustainable development in South Africa is well known. Firstly, conservation efforts help to control alien invasive plants and protect biodiversity, thus preserving natural resources, particularly water. Secondly, the most marginalised members of our society are lifted out of unemployment to receive a wage, thus escaping the worst poverty. This dissertation examines a third set of benefits that have been under-recognised and underexplored: namely, the intangible co-benefits experienced by workers in these projects. This study utilises in-depth interviews with thirteen workers from three different sites in Cape Town in order to identify and explain these co-benefits. The findings reveal that in an urban context, working in nature conservation can yield significant co-benefits for individuals and society. This study proposes a new conceptual framework for categorizing these benefits, and suggests that, if recognised and promoted by urban conservation programmes, these co-benefits have the potential to increase the value and sustainability of future environmental job creation projects.

Full Dissertation 


Muriel Argent (Gravenor) 

Supervised by: Professor Harro von Blottnitz

Assessing The Sustainability of UCT's Residence Catering System: A Systems Approach

Abstract: The food system at the University of Cape Town is explored in the interest of understanding the system as a whole, and to obtain an order of magnitude estimate of its carbon footprint. Student and staff impressions of the food system are discussed, and a system map of the major food system components and flows is detailed. The carbon footprint of the food system as a whole (including both the residence food system and the campus food system) is estimated to be between 5,700-7,000 tonnes CO2e/annum, which increases the institutional carbon footprint by about 8%. Intervention options that could improve the effectiveness and sustainability of the system are suggested.

Full Dissertation


Jess Kavonic 

Supervised by: Dr Jane Turpie

The Socio-Economic Implications for Coastal Development Setback Lines for the Overberg Municipality

Abstract: Climate change is expected to cause major changes to coastal zones. With the projected climate change related impacts there are heightened levels of vulnerability that need to be considered in the long term management of coastal areas. This research project aims to determine the socio-economic implications of the implementation of coastal setback lines for the Kogelberg Coast. The study was carried out using spatial data obtained from SSI Engineers and Environmental Consultants and face-face interview surveys of property owners and estate agents in the study area. A majority of property owners felt negatively towards the implementation of the setback, criticising that the line disregarded property rights and that the methodology used to establish the line failed to achieve satisfactory levels of public participation. The future of implementing this setback will need more readily available information as well as enhanced public participation. The study also demonstrates that the enforcement of the setback line has the potential to negatively affect coastal property value. It is therefore vital to consider other coastal protection measures so that that the best adaptation response is applied ensuring that valuable coastal resources are protected. A preliminary cost-benefit analysis was undertaken where the cost of alternative coastal protection was estimated. This was used to compare the favourability of the setback and in this way possibly contribute to adequate coastal management of the region. The study suggests that, without protective measures, damages of residential property could far exceed the costs of a coastal setback or other preventative options. Although there would be some initial loss of property value if a setback line was implemented, this is likely to be the best and most sustainable adaption strategy compared with a do-nothing approach and hard engineered protection.

Full Dissertation

Mischa Minné 

Supervised by: Mr Gareth Haysom

City of Cape Town’s Urban Agricultural Policy and the Successful Functioning of Urban Agriculture Initiatives

Abstract: Urban agriculture has been recognised by both an established, as well as bourgeoning body of research, as being able to contribute towards the reduction of stresses placed on spheres such as the socio-economic and urban food systems in the cities in which it occurs. This research paper takes as its focus the City of Cape Town in South Africa, and through qualitative research explores the extent to which the city’s urban agriculture policy 2007 has been able to create an enabling environment for the invigoration and development of urban agriculture in the City. A group of non-governmental organisations were selected as case studies through which it was possible to elucidate the intersection between policy and practice. The institutional landscape pertaining to urban agriculture in Cape Town was revealed through unpacking the role of the City’s Urban Agriculture Unit, created through the policy, and tasked with its implementation. It was shown that despite the policy possessing rigour in terms of its grounding in theory, a number of challenges encumbered its practical delivery on the ground. These pertained to the broader legislative and policy frameworks in which the Urban Agriculture Unit operates, as well as deficiencies in collaboration and common purpose existing between and amongst non-governmental practitioners. Ultimately it proved instructive to explore these challenges in terms of how they revealed a potential way forward for the establishment of enabling conditions for urban agriculture, and the roles and responsibilities needing to be fulfilled by both government and non-governmental entities in achieving this.

 Full Dissertation


Kirsty Nortje 

Supervised by: Ms. Anya Boyd

Co-Benefits: An Exploratory Study of the Qualitative Side of Mitigation Projects

Abstract: With climate change argued to be one of the most significant challenges facing human kind currently, it is obvious that a coordinated effort is needed to mitigate the dangerous effects of climate change. Mitigation of emissions needs to occur at all levels- locally, regionally, nationally and globally. At the same time it is vital that local, regional and national economies continue to grow and develop, fostering principals of sustainable development, especially in the developing world. Monitoring processes should ideally capture the full range of benefits of a mitigation action, both the ability to decrease the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and the potential to promote sustainable development. This thesis examines the potential for a local government body, the City of Cape Town in South Africa to not only monitor mitigation actions with regard to emissions reductions but to also monitor processes that are encouraging  sustainable development. It has used qualitative research methods to understand the processes within the city that are fostering effective monitoring and examines where there are challenges. It has found that whilst the monitoring of co-benefits has so far been limited there are structures and frameworks in place that can be drawn upon to increase the ability of this local government body to report on the full range of benefits different mitigation actions have.

Full Dissertation 


Chichi Ohanyere 

Supervised by: Professor Mark Alexander

The South African Cement Industry: A Review of its Energy and Environmental Performance Since 1980    

Abstract: Cement is manufactured to satisfy the demands of the provision of the basic necessities of life. A basic component of concrete, cement has no known substitute and hence will continue to be produced for decades to come. Since approximately 1 tonne of clinker emits nearly 1 tonne of CO2 during its manufacture, environmental pollution is a major concern for the industry. On estimate, the cement industry, which is energy intensive, contributes between five and eight percent of all CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), thus making it a vital sector to study. The South African cement industry is one of the major consumers of energy (thermal and electricity) in the country. In 2009 it ranked 9th in the world in terms of CO2 emissions. With the country relying mainly on fossil fuel (coal) for its energy needs, its cement industry deserves to be reviewed. To this end, this dissertation reviewed the South African cement industry to evaluate its energy use and CO2 emissions management practices. This is in line with the commitment the South African government made to mitigation and adaption to climate change and the requirement to develop along a sustainable low carbon path. It is seen that the country’s cement industry could not be effectively ranked with others due to restricted information on energy and emission indicators but it is aware of the negative effects of CO2 on the environment and as such is evolving timeously to be more energy efficient.

 Full Dissertation


Kirsty Robinson 

Supervised byAssociate Professor Roger Behrens

Mechanisms Encouraging Transport Modal Shifts from Private to Public and Non-Motorised Transport to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in The City of Cape Town

Abstract: Anthropogenically induced climate change as a result of increasing greenhouse gas emissions is predicted by the IPCC to not only have detrimental effects on the Earth‟s natural systems but also to have severely negative consequences on human society. The IPCC and UNFCCC urge that mitigation action needs to be taken as soon as possible to avoid the more disastrous consequences. The transport sector in the City of Cape Town is responsible for the fastest rising source of emissions in South Africa‟s Western Province. Transport modal shifts have been proven to be one of the most effective measures to reduce emissions in the transport sector thus in order to facilitate a transition to the new MyCiti rapid bus transport mechanisms encouraging transport modal shifts need to be ascertained and implemented. A quantitative survey method was used to gain a broad understanding of travel behaviour and reasons for mode choice whilst a qualitative interview method was used to gain an in depth understanding of cognitive reasoning regarding reasons for non-use and use of the MyCiti. Those already using the MyCiti do so to save money and time whilst those not using the MyCiti do not due to lack of knowledge, perception of inefficiency, lack of accessibility, limited routes and feeling that their car is more convenient. In the MyCiti case mechanisms incentivising public transport involve maintaining the MyCiti, implementing physical changes to allow greater access and providing more information. Mechanisms disincentivising private vehicle use involve economic and legal measures making private vehicle use both more expensive and less convenient. The mechanisms are likely to take maximum effect when used in conjunction with each other. Mechanisms need to be replicated on a broader scale to make a meaningful contribution to global transport emissions mitigation.

Full Dissertation

Cabral Wicht 

Supervised byProfessor Mark New

Changing Climate, Changing Perceptions: A Socio-Economic Analysis of Public Perceptions on Climate Change

Abstract: In an environment where the impacts of climate change are slowly being felt, there is increasing media attention, and a growing focus on how to communicate climate change to the public. As a result there are a growing number of studies focusing on how the public perceives the phenomenon. Given the lack of in-depth, local and contextual studies in developing countries needed to inform education and awareness campaigns, this study interrogates the level of knowledge, concern and engagement with climate change in the low-income Coloured suburb of Lavender Hill, Cape Town. Using a structured survey with 20 residents of Lavender Hill, this research found that while most respondents had a limited knowledge of the causes, consequences and ways to tackle climate change, they were very concerned about its impacts and thus interested in learning more. In the context of Lavender Hill the research found that education programmes need to be interactive and should include faith based organisations. Thus, communication strategies need to be built from the existing understanding of climate change and meet the needs of the community. As a study that provides a first-look at public perception of climate change within a low-income South African community, the results call for larger-scale research in order to better understand the factors that influence how individuals understand climate change.

Full Dissertation