The overall objective of this innovative, transdisciplinary research project is to develop an evidence-based integrated framework and prototype “investment case” for strengthening water-related Ecological Infrastructure (EI) while: i) supporting well-functioning livelihood strategies/value chains; ii) creating new livelihood opportunities and value chains; and iii) reducing hydroclimatic risks.
Started in July 2018, SEBEI aims to generate new knowledge by combining livelihoods and value chain analysis with an EI approach to water management and next-generation hydroclimatic modelling at optimal spatial resolution (see our work packages). With this combined approach, our interdisciplinary project team will focus on developing a more sophisticated conceptualisation of the linkages between EI and livelihoods. Hence, we will investigate how people might benefit from a strengthened and cost-effective water supply system realised through optimised restoration and rehabilitation of EI with income-creating co-benefits.
Among the key research questions that we will address are:
How might the restoration and sound management of EI create new livelihood opportunities and strengthen existing livelihood portfolios?
How do restoration and sound management of EI mitigate against current and future hydroclimatic risks that impact on households, and the broader economy within which they are located, in strategic and stressed catchments?
The research design is based on an inter- and transdisciplinary approach pursuing integration and scaling up.
The Berg-Breede and Greater uMngeni catchments are the focus because they have strategic water sources upstream of large cities (Cape Town, Durban) with strong rural -urban linkages. The catchments have a maximised engineered water supply system with no further Built Infrastructure options available, coupled with deteriorating water quality. We examine six EI intervention sites across these catchments. All sites provide a good representation of existing EI implementation models in terms of partnerships and operational structures.
Transdisciplinary Learning Network
To ensure that the knowledge created in the project is solution -oriented, socially robust and transferable to societal practice, a transdisciplinary learning network (i.e. “Community of Practice”) has been established in each catchment. In addition to researchers, each network will comprise a group of around 25 stakeholders drawn from government, NGOs, conservation agencies, private sector and communities involved in EI interventions in the research catchments. Participatory methods (such as interactive mapping exercises, group model building and using concrete case contexts) will be used to stimulate group learning, knowledge integration and capacity strengthening in the transdisciplinary learning networks, as well as to evaluate gathered knowledge and emerging understanding.
The transdisciplinary learning networks met in November 2018 and April 2019. The next meetings are planned for 20 November (Berg/ Breede) and 22 November 2019 (uMngeni) and a final workshop is planned for March 2020.