University of Stirling announces research on socio-environmental disasters has received £1m funding

Today, on Friday 20th November 2020, the University of Stirling announced that the UKRI GCRF Water and Fire: Enhancing Capacity and Reducing Risk through 15 ‘Best Bets’ for Transformative Adaptation with Vulnerable Residents on the Cape Flats, a project working with marginalised residents of township communities in South Africa which are facing crises and systematic risks exacerbated by climate change has received £1million in funding.

Led by Dr Dalene Swanson at the University of Stirling, and supported by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund’s (GCRF) Collective Programme, the research works closely with local people to address interrelated socio-environmental hazards affecting township communities in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, and support their efforts to reduce disaster risks.

It is one of more than 140 projects, announced today (Friday 20 November), supported by the Programme – a £1.5 billion fund which will enhance the overall impact in the areas of global health, education, sustainable cities, food systems, conflict and resilience.

Read the full article on the University of Stirling website here.

Four new postdoctoral fellows have joined a research project partnership supporting marginalised communities in South Africa suffering from climate-change induced crises.

The transdisciplinary research, which is led by Dr Dalene Swanson of the University of Stirling, is aiming to address the socio-environmental hazards affecting residents of township communities in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, and support their efforts to reduce disaster risks.

Officially launched in November 2019, the collaborative project has now welcomed Drs Skhue Ncube, Allan Gillies and Lesley Gibson, who will be based at Stirling, and Dr Tsitsi Mpofu-Mketwa, who is based at the University of Cape Town.

The project: Water and Fire: Enhancing Capacity and Reducing Risk through 15 ‘Best Bets’ for Transformative Adaptation with Vulnerable Residents on the Cape Flatsis funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – a prestigious initiative announced by the UK Government in 2015 to support cutting-edge research partnerships to address significant global challenges.

Dr Dalene Swanson said: “We are delighted to welcome our four new postdoctoral research fellows who will support this global challenge-led project.

“Recurrent fires, drought and water shortages, and large-scale flooding, are escalating socio-environmental hazards exacerbated by climate change, which disproportionately impact on excluded communities in South Africa.

“In an age of government austerity and economic strain, township residents have been forced to become increasingly self-reliant and resourceful. By working alongside and understanding community and individual responses to climate-change induced crises, this project aims to co-develop a set of resilience actions aimed at mitigating socio-environmental disaster risks, especially those relating to drought, floods, and fire, and for which poverty, inequality, crime and violence exacerbate disaster risks.”

The 3-year research project is a partnership between the University of Stirling, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation (NPC), and risk-affected residents of the Cape Flats of South Africa. 

Dr Swanson added: “The research also has implications for other contexts where residents are vulnerable to the deleterious effects of socio-environmental disaster risks induced or exacerbated by climate change. Through the co-development of a set of resilience actions, this project aims to directly benefit risk-affected residents of the Cape Flats in their efforts to mitigate disaster risks and achieve sustainable livelihoods.”

The paradoxical inseparability of water, fire and disease in the Urban South

by Dr Lesley Gibson

In this blog, Dr Lesley Gibson discusses the challenges, risks and hazards faced by residents in the Cape Flats during winter. These communities are faced by the challenge of flooding, are at high risk of fire and until recently, the pandemic that is COVID-19. Challenges such as poverty, marginalization, social inequality and the pandemic that is COVID-19 exacerbate the vulnerability of communities in the Cape Flats. The risks of water, fire and the pandemic are paradoxically yet inexorably linked. Read more on the blog below

The paradoxical inseparability of water, fire and disease in the Urban South

Warm welcome to our new UKRI GCRF Water and Fire Postdoctoral Fellows

We extend a very warm welcome to our four new postdoctoral research fellows supporting the UKRI GCRF Water and Fire project. We are very much looking forward to having Drs Tsitsi Mpofu-Mketwa, Skhue Ncube, Allan Gillies and Lesley Gibson as postdoctoral research fellows on our team. Tsitsi started in post on 1st of September 2020, Skhue and Allan on 1st of October 2020, and Lesley will be joining us on 1st of November 2020.   

600 interviews completed

Between April to July 2020, we successfully completed Phase 1 of the project activities, and undertook 600 telephonic/socially-distant interviews using the digital data collection platform ComCare. There were 200 interviews undertaken in each of the three sites – Sweet Home Farm; Overcome Heights; and Delft. Tremendous thanks goes to the residents who gave of their time to share their experiences of the socio-environmental disaster risks they faced (flood; rapid fires; drought/water access issues), and the ways they intersected with other stresses – COVID-19, unemployment, an absent state, poverty, violence and crime. Tremendous thanks also goes to the GCRF Water and Fire Community Advisory Board (CAB) members and researchers working in the field, who come from these residential areas on the Cape Flats, and who have also experienced these stressors.

A free-to-use COVID-19 app is the best way to reach marginalised communities

Priorities have been set to address Covid-19 in South Africa. But a dedicated effort to engage marginalised communities on the disease and its prevention is absent. There is an urgency to fill this gap through a focused, accurate and reliable mobile intervention. The time is now. Dr Gill Black, Co-Director of the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation and Co-Investigator on this project gives us insights on a free-to-use COVID-19 app for marginalised communities in South Africa. Full article here

Opening sites for 20,000 new informal traders will help offset economic ravages of Covid-19

“If municipal authorities used the legislative and management tools they already possess to open just one new street trading site in each middle-class suburb in their jurisdiction, this would collectively represent thousands of new trading opportunities and markets for street trader businesses”. Leif Petersen, Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation Co-director and Co-Investigator on this project gives insights on what the potential for opening street trading sites could do for street traders during the pandemic that is COVID-19. Petersen also shares some insight on the household interviews done during lockdown in the Cape Town township of Delft, as part of this project. Full article can be found here.

Postdoctoral Research Associate Positions available

The deadline to apply for any of the three PDRA positions to support the UKRI-GCRF Water and Fire project at the three institutions – University of Stirling, University of Cape Town, and the University of the Western Cape has been extended to 31st May 2020. PDFs with details on how to apply are attached below. Since the research seeks co-mobilised, bottom-up approaches to ‘disaster risk management’ within the context of disenfranchised residents’ experiences of disaster on the Cape Flats (Cape Town), it is critical that the current ongoing pandemic be incorporated as further complicating such experiences of disaster.

University of Stirling PDRA position details available below.

University of Cape Town PDRA position details available below.

University of the Western Cape PDRA position details available below.

Podcast: ‘Township in Lockdown’ (Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation)

South Africa is currently in the midst of a 21-day government-enforced social isolation lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosted by the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, this series of 5 minute podcasts (updated daily) from Phumzile Ntozini focuses on Philippi and efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Click here to listen. #stayhome #covid