2014 Masters Students

Katrine Claassens, South Africa
Supervised by: Ian Rijsdijk and Lorena Pasquini
Working research titleVisualising Climate Change: the case of the IPCC's cover images
Previous qualifications BA Visual Arts (BAFA), Stellnbsoch University
Monica Giermek, USA 
Supervised by: Dr. Kevin Winter, co supervised by: Dr. Piotr Wolski 
Working research title: Analyzing peak flow attenuation in an urban wetland with climate change influences
Previous qualifications: BSc of Environmental Science, focus in Watershed Science
Kristen Kennedy, South Africa 
Previous qualifications: BSc of Biological Science, Honours specialising in Ecology
Thesis title: The role of traditional crops and adapting to climate variability and change for a community of small scale amaPondo farmers in the Eastern Cape
Arguably one of the greatest challenges currently facing humankind is the linking of environmental sustainability with poverty reduction and social justice. These issues all come to a head in the rural smallholder agricultural regions of "underdeveloped‟ Africa. In these settings climate change and food security are but two of the many challenges faced on a daily basis, compounded by the need for "development". Through a case study of smallholder farmers facing multiple contested development trajectories, this research takes a social-ecological systems approach in order to:
1. investigate the past, present and future dynamics of smallholder agriculture and food practices in mPondo communities of the Wild Coast
2. locate the role of agriculture and agri-food systems in the local development discourses
3. describe the perceived opportunities and challenges which face the local agri-food system
Through semi-structured interviews, informal discussions, workshops and participant observation in three regions of the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape a trend of rapid cultural erosion was observed. Many traditional crops are no longer cultivated as farmers turn to commercial seeds and modern cooking methods. Three dominant development trajectories are explored for one region, focusing on the AmaDiba community whose history of resisting imposed development is again being tested by contentious titanium mining proposed in nearby Xolobeni. A central finding is that while resisting imposed development in order to achieve a self-defined development which values mPondo traditions and subsistence off the land, these communities – described as possessing strong community agency - are losing the very culture they are fighting to defend. This is made clear through the social-ecological systems approach of resilience theory. In building resilience to imposed development the community has become vulnerable to other disturbances. As this traditional agri-food system continues to face the enduring shocks of global environmental and social change, the communities must recognise their fragilities as well as the threats which have been overlooked in the past. This study therefore suggests that the community exploit this stage of readjustment so as to reorganise, building on local culture and tradition, through an integrated approach to development which combines agriculture, traditional food and tourism.


Alexandra Logan, South Africa  
Working research titleSustainability of luxury safari lodges within the Timbavati private nature reserve
Previous qualifications:  BSc in Earth Science (Geology and Environmental Geochemistry Majors), BSc Hons in Earth Science (Environmental Geochemistry)
Asimenye Nthakomwa-Chitika, Malawi 
Supervised by: Dr. Olivier Crespo, Co-Supervised by Dr Joseph Daron
Working research title: Assessing the role of weather index insurance in climate change adaptation in Malawi  
Previous qualifications:  BSc of Natural Resource Management, interest in climate change adaptation and mitigation
Tamzin Ractliffe, South Africa  
Working research titlecoming soon
Previous qualifications:  Social entrepreneur with a passion for sustainable social development
Albert Novas Somanje, Zambia
Supervised by: Dr. Olivier Crespo
Thesis title: Climate Change Adaptation Measures in Agriculture: A Case of Conservation Agriculture for Small-Scale Farmers in Kalomo District of Zambia
In most of the developing countries, small scale farmers (SSFs) are usually the primary agricultural producers of staple crop. Furthermore, they highly depend on rainfall for their rain-fed agricultural production. SSFs have limited capacity to adapt to extreme climate variability, thus rendering them to be among the most vulnerable to climate change. Some recent studies show that agricultural production and productivity is being negatively impacted by climate change and variability in most parts of Southern Africa. This is likely to continue for decades into the future, unless corrective or adaptation measures are implemented to reduce the impact on agriculture. Conservation Agriculture (CA) is one of the climate change and weather variability adaptation measures being promoted for SSFs in Kalomo District of Zambia. CA is not only being promoted to improve production and productivity for food security for the majority rural population, but also as an adaptation measure for sustainable agricultural production.
The present study analysed the CA practices being promoted in Kalomo district of southern Zambia and the associated challenges in the management and implementation, as well as, how best these challenges can be addressed. Semi structured interviews and literature review were used as methodologies of data collection for the study. The findings of the study indicate that among the three principles of CA, minimum tillage is mostly practiced compared to crop rotation and retention of crop residue. Within minimum tillage, ripping was found to be practiced on a larger scale compared to making basins. The major challenges include planning and human resource development, financial resource and policy constraints and cultural barriers to adoption of CA.

Viviane Umulisa, Rwanda  
Supervised by: Dr. Kevin Winter
Working research title Investigation of soil moisture variability under different agriculture practices, in order to inform the adaptation options of rooibos tea farmers in the Suid Bokkeveld
Previous qualifications:  BSc of Soil and Environmental Management, interest in water management for agriculture production and environmental sustainability. 
Joshua Weeber, South Africa 
Working research titleA determination of the effects of permanent water holes on the distribution of Connochaetes taurinus cascading down to plant species diversity and vegetation structure
Previous qualifications: BSc in Environmental and Geographical Science, honours specializing in Palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction