Southern African cities in a changing climate – investigating the transformative adaptation potential of the Sihlanzimvelo stream management programme

Lulu van Rooyen

Publication Date:

Transforming cities in the global South to deal with the social, economic, environmental and political complexity exacerbating climate vulnerability is becoming increasingly urgent. ‘Transformative adaptation’ (TA) is a relatively new concept that is widely used, but poorly explored and understood in the climate change field. The aim of this research is to better understand the pathways to TA in water management in southern African cities. An initial literature review recognized six criteria for achieving TA. Stakeholders from potentially transformative water management projects in Durban assisted in the co-exploration of TA with the research team, and collectively identified case studies with TA potential in the City. The TA potential and pathway of the case studies were investigated through focus groups, interviews, and three learning engagements. One of the case studies is the Sihlanzimvelo Programme – a municipal-driven, community-based waterway restoration and management programme in high density public land. This Community Ecosystem Based Adaptation programme is regarded as potentially transformative due to its green engineering solutions; socio-economic, environmental and social benefits; climate change adaptation; and reduced costs to the municipality by protecting infrastructure from flood and stormwater surge damage. Enablers of TA include: sustainable implementation and changes; sustainable fundamental changes in thinking and doing; economic empowerment and ownership; holistic, complex system thinking in addressing issues; proof of concept; and the possibility to upscale to be more inclusive. Limitations inhibiting the programme from reaching full transformative potential include rigidity in approach, top-down decision-making, political interference and limited buy-in from important actors.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration