2013 Masters Students & Topics

2013 Graduates, 60 credit minor dissertations


Sarah Haiden 

Supervised by: Dr. Gina Ziervogel and  Dr Lorena Pasquini

Mapping the governance landscape related to ecosystem-based adaptation in the Bergrivier Municipality, Western Cape, South Africa

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.

Akeel Hajat 

Supervised by: Professor Mark New

The potential for utilisation of decadal climate information by farmers in Malawi

Abstract: Food security and agricultural production will play a key part in the development of countries like Malawi. The challenges posed by climate change require strategic and coordinated adaptation responses by farmers. Farmers are known to deal with varying levels of risk across different time frames and have a broad range of adaptive responses. Decadal climate information is an improving area at the forefront of climate science and has been suggested as a potential tool to be used for planning purposes by farmers. Climate information is generally more effective if catered to the needs of users, and the potential utilisation of decadal climate information is investigated. Semi structured interviews were carried out with 8 commercial and 19 small scale farmers. Key elements and thresholds of the farming system were identified with climate factors having a major impact on yields. Commercial and small scale farmers are subject to different non- climate pressures and mostly plan over different time horizons. Small scale farmers base more decisions on climate information than commercial farmers. Decadal climate information was found to be of potential use in strategic planning, yet barriers were identified that need to be overcome. This study takes initial steps towards exploring the potential for decadal climate information as a planning tool.

Full Dissertation 


Anna James 

Supervised byMs Holle Wlokas

Capabilities and the Kuyasa CDM project: Exploring skills development and its contribution to work opportunities

Abstract: Human development and wellbeing are increasingly being merged with global efforts to address climate change. Additionally, questions are being asked about the role of skills development in environmental sustainability and local wellbeing. But how do these goals play out in complexity found at a local scale? This paper focuses on the Kuyasa CDM project, situated in a marginalised locality of South Africa, which upgraded low cost housing with energy efficient technology. It explores how skills development has contributed to opportunities for work, drawing on concepts from the capabilities approach. The skills development took the form of on-the-job training and, for some, one month of training at an accredited institution. Data was gathered through focus groups, semi-structured interviews and field observation. The analysis draws on concepts from the capabilities approach to explore the link between skills development and wellbeing through opportunities for work. Findings present a perspective of people whose lives and histories are bound in layers of complex social dynamics and power structures. Through this perspective there is a preliminary insight into what can be gained from skills development of this nature. The level of skill gained is now used in informal settings and is largely perceived as unsatisfactory. There appear to be severe obstacles the creation of jobs in energy efficiency technology in installations in low income houses. However, there are ways in which the project has provided subtle contributions to opportunities for work.  

Full Dissertation


Shakirudeen Lawal

Supervised by: Dr Babatunde Abiodun

Modeling the potential of forestation for carbon storage in Southern Africa

Abstract: The present study examines the carbon storage potential of forestation over southern Africa with focus on South Africa, Botswana and Namibia; to investigate how some local species may sequester carbon and thereby provide economic returns to these nations and landowners through the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). First, this study used the IPCC Tier 2 method to calculate the carbon stored and emitted from forestlands in these three southern Africa countries. The potential net and gross carbon storage values of these forestlands were then estimated using the emissions-storage statistical equations. Second, the CO2FIX V3.1 model which is an IPCC Tier 3 method was used to simulate the carbon storage potential of Acacia karoo, Eucalyptus grandis, E. smithii, E. nitens, Portulacaria afra, Searsia pendulina, Combretum apiculatum and Pinus radiate over a 30-year period. The results show that carbon dioxide (CO2eq) emissions from forestlands were highest in Botswana from 1990-2000 (8000 CO2eq) and 2005-2010 (5800 CO2eq) while Namibia recorded the lowest emissions (2900 CO2eq) in this period. Among the species used for simulations in the CO2FIX model, A. karoo sequestered the highest amount of carbon in South Africa, 138.06 MgC/ha (506.23 MgCO2eq/ha and Euro 2328.65/ha), in Botswana 138.71/ha MgC (508.59 MgCO2eq/ha and Euro 2339.51/ha) and in Namibia, 137.96 MgC/ha (505.59 MgCO2eq/ha and Euro 2326.92/ha) and thus, gave the highest economic value while P. afra has the least potential for carbon storage in the region, sequestering 5% of what A. karoo sequesters although it also showed some promising abilities for carbon storage. The simulations further reveal that a mixed plantation which comprises all these indigenous and exotic species sequestered much more carbon than that of A. karoo by a factor of 4.5 in South Africa (615.59 MgC/ha), 4.6 in Botswana (646.79 MgC/ha) and 5.0 in Namibia (709.99 MgC/ha) and therefore, gave far more economic value (5x higher) than the sum all the monoculture.

Full Dissertation

No photo available 

Sibongile Lenneiye

Supervised by: Dr Godfrey Tawodzera

Beyond food security: Exploring the role of community gardening in human well-being based on a project in a high-density suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe

Abstract: Across different parts of the world agricultural practices within the city have been characterized in several ways, ranging from a vehicle for expansion to that of rehabilitating. Although in developed countries, the industrial revolution rendered urban farming less relevant because of technological advances in food production and increased mobility of food systems, it has recently re-­‐emerged. Similarly the developing world has seen a revival, which has been widely cited as a response to economic crises. Consequently, like the prevalent situation on the continent, urban agriculture in Zimbabwe is examined in relation to poverty reduction and food security. There is very little information on how city farming and particularly community gardening, a more organized form, factors into social structures such as community building and education, and psychosocial as well as physical health. The purpose of this study was to investigate these themes and explore the institutional context within which they function. A community gardening project facilitated by a non-­‐governmental organization was selected as the study site located in the high-­‐density suburb of Tafara in Harare. The personal health benefits of engaging in the community gardening project were physical activity and nutritional diversity. Farmers found gardening activities relaxing and felt a sense of satisfaction. Educational benefits through training sessions from external organizations as well as knowledge sharing amongst gardeners were also dominant outcomes. For a low-­‐income suburb such as Tafara, community cohesion and empowerment primarily arise out of the need for improving the resilience of the garden and income earning opportunities.  

Full Dissertation

Jesse Luttik 

Supervised byDr Jane Battersby-Lennard

Sharing urban food security solutions in the Global South: An attempt of a policy transfer from Belo Horizonte to Cape Town

Abstract: Urban food insecurity is a heavy burden for large amounts of city dwellers in the Global South. While the role of city authorities re-garding food issues has traditionally been neglected, urban food governance is increasingly being recognised for its potential to contribute to improved food security in the city. A comprehen-sive food strategy requires innovative policy-making; hence the notion that best-practice examples may provide important lessons to Southern cities that share a similar socio-economic context. However, general policy transfer literature exhibits a ‘Northern’ bias and lacks empirical research in the Global South. This thesis focuses on an attempt to bring lessons from the successful food security programme of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to the City of Cape Town. This attempt mainly consisted of the initiation and facilita-tion of a feasibility study by German development organisations. By applying this case study, broader opportunities for, and chal-lenges to, the transfer of urban food policy in the Global South are explored. Data was gathered through semi-structured inter-views with key actors in the realisation of the feasibility study. The analysis considers concepts that relate to the process of pol-icy transfer, with particular attention for the interactions between urban policy-making and food security. Research findings provide an insight into what factors constrain policy transfer of this na-ture. Obstacles relate to both the status of food in urban policy and the specific context of Southern cities. This thesis ultimately concludes that a new approach is necessary to provide a frame-work for an enabling environment for policy transfer in the Global South.

Full Dissertation

 No photo available 

Liz Mcdaid 

Supervised byAssoc Professor Merle Sowman

Investigation into the nature of fisher community representation in the development of the small scale fisheries policy in South Africa, identifying challenges and lessons learnt, and their implications for the perceived legitimacy of the policy

Abstract: Over the last two decades, there has been increasing recognition of the critical role that marine resources contribute to the food and livelihood small scale fishers, and the overexploitation and development threats posed by increasing degradation of marine resources.  Involvement of affected parties in resolving these issues is recognised as good governance, leading to calls for cooperative governance approaches in the small-scale fisheries sector. Drawing on Manbridge’s (2003) theoretical framework of representation this thesis explored the nature of community representation in the South Africa small-scale fisheries policy development process, investigating how the roles and responsibilities of elected fisher representatives were perceived by other stakeholders, the challenges experienced, and the implications for the legitimacy of the SSFP process.    The nature of representative participation within the SSFP development process was complex, and fisher representatives relied on range of representative behaviours during the policy development process, increasing or decreasing direct engagement with their constituencies in response to the challenges experienced.  The study found that the nature of representation was acceptable to their constituencies, because of the characteristics and experience of the elected fisher representatives. Masifundise Development Trust was perceived to legitimately represent fisher interests, and significantly strengthened the voices of fishers in the SSFP process.  The nature of representation during the SSFP development process was perceived to be legitimate and although the degree of direct community engagement varied according to the changing circumstances, such representation can still be regarded as legitimate as long as the interests of fishers are addressed in the policy.

Full Dissertation


Beth Mackay 

Supervised byDr Phoebe Barnard

The effect of urbanisation and climate on the frequency of ecological stress indicators in the fynbos endemic nectarivore, the Cape Sugarbird

Abstract: The Cape Sugarbird, Promerops cafer inhabits the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. The CFR is threatened by both urbanisation and climate change, which may exert stressors on the Cape Sugarbird that result in disease or morphological abnormalities, collectively known as ecological stress indicators. This study investigates the effect of urbanisation and climate on the occurrence of the following ecological stress indicators in Cape Sugarbirds: tarsal disease (TD), fluctuating asymmetry (FA), body condition (BC) and rectrix stress barring (SB).  The results support that climate is a factor in the expression of TD, SB and BC.  A decrease in precipitation and increase in temperature supported an increase in the incidence of TD and SB. An increase in temperature supported an occurrence of lower BC. Climate change is predicted to decrease mean annual precipitation and increase temperature in the CFR thus potentially affecting the Cape Sugarbird. Urbanisation appears to affect BC, SB, FA and TD. The increased distance of the site from an urban settlement supported birds with higher BC and decreased occurrence of FA. The classification of a site as urban had support for Cape Sugarbirds with a lower BC, higher occurrence of FA and increased incidence of SB and TD.  These findings strengthen the need for urban planners to create and improve connectivity of ecological spaces within urban areas, in order to conserve biodiversity. The findings of this study are valuable for conservation management, as the Cape Sugarbird and other fynbos endemic species are wholly reliant on the CFR for their persistence, and are thus at high risk from climate change and increasing urbanisation.

Full Dissertation

Journal Article: "Urbanization, climate and ecological stress indicators in an endemic nectarivore, the Cape Sugarbird"

Christopher Millson

Supervised by: Dr Andrew Marquad and Mr Anthony Dane

The potential for rooftop solar photovoltaic installations on commercial sector buildings in the city of Cape Town

Abstract: Given the recent trend of rising cost of grid-supplied electricity, and the falling costs of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) modules, the PV industry in South Africa may be on the cusp of a rapid evolution. The commercial sector may be a strong driver of this industry, being equipped and motivated to capitalise on the savings that PV can offer. However, on account of variations in their electricity demand, tariff structure, time of use, and access to funds, an investment in PV will be justifiable by different businesses at different times. Offices and distribution centres in particular, are identified as strong candidates for the early adoption of PV.  The majority of business owners and managers believe that PV is already worth considering for their companies. This has implications for policy makers, municipalities, Eskom, consumers and those in the PV industry. Also, in the context of climate change mitigation and pledges to reduce emissions, the contribution of clean, renewable energy is emphasised. Promoting distributed generation in the form of rooftop PV should form part of a national strategy for climate change mitigation. This will require a variety of approaches to dealing with financial, technical, regulatory and institutional barriers. This study focuses on identifying the categories of commercial buildings most likely to invest in PV, and considers a variety of policy options to overcome the most critical of the barriers: economic feasibility.

Full Dissertation

Sarah Reckson

Supervised by: Dr Amos Madhlopa

An assessment of the perceived characteristics of solar lamps by members of un-electrified households in Khayelitsha

Abstract: This study uses Rogers (1995) theory of diffusion of innovations and the innovation-decision process as a theoretical framework to explore the perceived characteristics of solar lamps in un-electrified informal households in Khayelitsha, South Africa.  The study explored three of Rogers’ perceived characteristics; relative advantage, compatibility and complexity and includes affordability as an additional perceived characteristic. Data were collected using 5-point Likert scale questionnaires of 26 households in two neighbourhoods of Khayelitsha. The data revealed positive attitudes toward each perceived characteristic with the following mean scores; relative advantage 3.6, compatibility 3.4, complexity2.1 and affordability 3.9. Cronbach’s alpha was calculated to estimate the internal consistency and reliability of the data. The first three characteristics were of satisfactory reliability, relative advantage’s alpha was 0.84, compatibility’s alpha was 0.72 and complexity’s alpha was 0.74. Affordability’s alpha was a low 0.46 and this data deemed unreliable. Additional open questions were gathered which reflected a preference for electricity and an anticipation for receiving access to electricity in the near future. The study suggests that in light of the observed positive attitudes regarding solar lamps and the perceived advantageousness of this innovation to members of un-electrified households, barriers may exist on the supply-side of the diffusion of solar lamps. Additional barriers to diffusion may include politically and culturally-infused perceptions of electricity and solar lamps.

Full Dissertation

Brian Schmitt

Supervised by: Mr Mike Allsop and Dr Bradley Rink

Realising the benefits of beekeeping development projects in the Western Cape

Abstract: Addressing unemployment, maintaining biodiversity, and filling market void for honey; beekeeping development projects are well suited to address all of this and more. Semi structure interviews of funders, service providers and participants were used to investigate two different beekeeping development projects in the Western Cape.  This research was able to identify the tangible benefits such as; establishing a cooperative, brand identity, income, certified skills, and business relationships. The research also identified intangible benefits; leadership, enthusiasm, self-confidence, pride, environmental appreciation.  Through the research process standout findings and observations included the importance of prior experience and commitment to participant continuity. The differing views of those involved with the project were also of note; funders focus on capacity while participants were striving for outcomes. This investigation is far from broad enough, but offers an insightful look at two development beekeeping projects and how their past may echo in similar projects. 

Full Dissertation

Grete Simanauskaite

Supervised by: Professor Mark New and Ms Holle Wlokas

Knowledge, perceptions and engagement with renewable energy in South Africa: a case study of Matzikama municipality, Western Cape

Abstract: Renewable energy has the potential for delivering socio-economic and environmental benefits to societies, and hence with the aim of meeting its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets and contributing towards development, South Africa launched a renewable energy program in 2011. Social acceptance is among the factors which can determine successful outcomes for renewable energy projects, and, given the newness of the renewable energy industry in South Africa, this study enhances knowledge on how specific aspects of social acceptance, namely knowledge, perceptions and engagement, play out among local communities in South Africa.  Four communities, differing in their income levels, were interrogated using a survey technique in Matzikama municipality, an area where two renewable energy projects are taking place. This research found that fragmented knowledge around renewable energy exists, and that tertiary education, employment and income influence knowledge creation in the studied area. In the context of Matzikama municipality, insufficiencies around engagement and information dissemination processes that emerged from this study could be overcome by exploring alternative public participation mechanisms or producing more targeted and tailored communication. Perceptions around renewable energy were highly positive, yet people’s ability to identify only economic benefits could introduce negative attitudes or conflicts in the future. This study provides unique insights into the relationship between renewable energy and local communities in one municipal area in South Africa, calling for greater understanding of local social context, specifically communities and their social structures, in deployment of renewable energy technologies.  

Full Dissertation

2013 In Progress (60 credit minor dissertations)


Nicholas Wiid

Supervised by: Professor Sue Parnell

A critical assessment of the Wescape concept, plan and process [IN PROGRESS]