CLiGS in South Africa
What does sustainable development look like in a nation that boasts rich biodiversity and natural resource stocks, modern cities, beautiful beaches, and dramatic landscapes, but also faces unequivocal levels of social inequality and water stress? South Africa is a unique location to explore the challenges and opportunities for sustainability and a crucial location for its success. The wealthiest of African nations and the financial gateway to the continent, post-apartheid South Africa is a fascinating place to consider the tensions between conservation and development, particularly with regards to water resources. Encompassing six ecoregions as defined by WWF, and three biodiversity hotspots as defined by Conservation International in a space twice the size of Texas, South Africa has experienced almost a 40% population increase in the twenty years since the end of Apartheid; almost 60% of which has been in urban areas. South Africa ranks fourth in the world for the highest level of income inequality (as measured by the World Bank’s Gini Coefficient) with about 28% of urban populations living in informal settlements. While access to improved water and sanitation has increased over the last two decades and alleviated household-level water problems, at a national scale, South Africa faces significant freshwater shortages in the approaching years.
Climate change, increasing consumption, and degraded watersheds are all contributing to South Africa’s water security challenge. But in the face of significant environmental, social, and economic risks posed by water shortages, noteworthy strategies are emerging from public, private, and civil society sectors to work collaboratively to address this significant challenge to South Africa’s sustainable development. CLiGS South Africa Program is working with a range of stakeholder groups in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal to explore and advance cross-sector partnerships for improving water quality and access, while at the same time creating jobs and improving public service delivery. Strategies we are exploring largely center around watershed-scale improvements through ecological infrastructure investments, though it also includes enterprise development at smaller-scales to increase access to clean water.
- Hosted researchers from Gauteng City-Region Observatory & coordinated study tour of green infrastructure in the Washington DC region
- Presented & hosted reception at International Sustainable Development Research Society 2013 Conference in Stellenbosch
- Professional Certificate in International Sustainability Consulting (May 2015 – VT Alumni only) – A team of professionals explored market approaches to integrated conservation and development in one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots for the International Consulting Lab portion of their program.