Systems thinking within restoration for resilience: Collectively understanding and managing relationships between land- and water-restoration and human livelihoods

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Sharon Pollard

Publication Date:

Despite the progressive and enabling legislative framework for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), the integrity of many southern African river systems is declining. Many basins are challenged by balancing social development imperatives with resource sustainability. Such challenges resonate with global concerns of water security given an increasingly complex and dynamic context within which water governance has to act. This paper describes the uptake of IWRM in the Olifants Catchment, shared between South Africa and Mozambique, and the Tsitsa Catchment in the Eastern Cape. A systemic catchment management approach is described – not as an end in itself but rather as a process for managing and restoring water and land resources as shaped by the socio-economic and political context. This context is important because many of the issues apparent today are systemic in nature and hence require systemic approaches. We focus on restoring and maintaining environmental water requirements as a lens through which to examine the need for systemic, integrated, and adaptive responses. Regular non-compliance in South African rivers reflects the complexities of governing in dynamic, socio-ecological environments where operationalizing policy depends on the collective contribution of a number of strategies, plans, and practices. We highlight the importance of governance, a practice-based understanding of policy, the role of leadership and communication, collective action and regulation, and self-organisation. These issues are explored through the evolving experiences of working first in the rivers of the Kruger National Park, the uptake of these ideas into the Olifants, and subsequently the Tsitsa Catchment.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration