START Launches Multidisciplinary Programme

Sustainable Seas Trust is pleased to announce that START has recently launched a multidisciplinary programme in the Hamburg area alongside the Keiskamma Estuary of the Eastern Cape. The project is: The Impact of Climate Change on Food Security Among Coastal Communities of Keiskamma, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

This is project is driven by Sustainable Seas Trust for and with its SEACC partners Rhodes University (Socio economics, anthropology, Geographic Information Systems), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Estuarine and marine ecology) and University of Fort Hare (Agriculture and Socioeconomics). The essence of the programme is on improving food security, restoring ecosystem goods and services, decreasing risk and vulnerability and promoting adaptation to climate change through learning and capacity building programmes.

 Food security among impoverished coastal communities of the Eastern Cape of South Africa depends upon:

  1. Agriculture (crops, vegetable gardening and livestock)
  2. Harvesting of biodiversity (mainly sea foods, but also plants and limited hunting)
  3. Income to purchase food where between 50 and 75% unemployment prevails (Global Insight 2006).

To a greater or lesser degree every family is dependent upon agriculture, harvesting of biodiversity (mainly marine and estuarine fish and invertebrates) and an income generated by at least one family member with which to purchase food. Should any of these forms of food acquisition decrease, then News there is a greater reliance on the others. Equally, if any of these were to increase, such as by a good rainy season promoting agricultural yields, then the others, such as dependence on biodiversity harvesting and external incomes, might decline. Understanding food security in these communities requires an integrated evaluation of natural biophysical factors, impacts of human degradation of the environment and a socio-economic approach. Equally, modelling of solutions needs to incorporate all factors under different future climate scenarios.

The vulnerability of coastal communities is high as their lands are degraded, droughts are common (the area is in a severe drought at present), biodiversity is depleted and incomes are very low and insecure. The downward trends, including a decline in the ability of land, freshwaters, estuaries and coasts, to deliver ecosystem services, are cause for concern. The trend suggests that present populations cannot subsist from existing natural resources, yet the future will need to accommodate increasing demand as human populations grow. Further, there are virtually no immediate prospects of addressing issues of poverty and inadequate education. These concerns are heightened by climate change predictions that the future will be drier and hotter, increasing the risk to these vulnerable communities.

This project will evaluate the food security of the coastal community at Keiskamma in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It will examine the relationship between agriculture, biodiversity harvesting and ability to purchase food in the face of climate change and declining ecosystem services. The objective will be to start a process by working with communities and government, including local and national policy makers, to formulate adaptation strategies and to reverse at least some trends. In this process we intend to:

  • Evaluate land and ecosystem degradation & biodiversity loss.
  • Build capacity (the programme will be supervised and driven by senior experienced researchers, but run mainly by undergraduate and postdoctoral students) and develop scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge to formulate solutions and to make that knowledge readily available to all stakeholders.
  • Reduce vulnerability through informed decision making and through promotion of education and awareness within the communities and governing bodies.
  • Model the biophysical and socio-economic relationships within the Keiskamma ecosystem with a view to developing a strategy for adaptation to climate change. It is intended that the model would be applied, with minor modifications, to many other similar communities living along the coast (there are 213 estuaries along the Eastern Cape coast, many of which are similar to Keiskamma).

This START programme will be the catalyst to initiate a longer-term definitive programme on adaptation to climate change among coastal communities The focus on coastal communities is because they considered to be amongst the most vulnerable of all. The programme will be driven by the newly-formed network of universities and NGOs, the South East African Climate Consortium (SEACC).

Keiskamma Trust hosts SST and the START Programme

The Keiskamma Trust has an enviable history of serving the impoverished communities in the Hamburg area has opened its doors to the START programme and is effectively a SEACC team member. The Keiskamma Trust and Sustainable Seas Trust signed a MOU to facilitate collaboration.

News Coastal Resources ManagementMr Thabong, Director of Keiskamma Trust, signing the MOU with Sustainable Seas Trust, being watched by members of University of fort Hare, Keiskamma Trust and Sustainable Seas Trust.

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