Evaluating people-environment relationships: developing appropriate research methodologies for sustainable management and rehabilitation of riverine areas by communities in the Kat River Valley, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

by Motteux, N.M.G.

Abstract (Summary)
International evidence clearly indicates that water shortages and the enhanced value attached to water and aquatic ecosystems are key concerns faced by many countries. International experience, since the mid-1980s, has emphasised the importance of addressing political, social, environmental and economic issues through active stakeholder participation in riverine and water resource management.

These trends and issues are relevant to South Africa, where integrated water resource management (IWRM) is now a cornerstone of water resource policy and the National Water Act (NWA). Apartheid excluded communities in former homelands (racial reserves) from participation in IWRM. The research presented in this thesis was based on the search for philosophies and methods to involve the rural, former homeland people of the Kat River Valley in South Africa in IWRM. Post-modern, humanist and some logical positivist geographical philosophies were used during the research.

This research applied Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) philosophy and methods and was influenced by the seminal work of Paolo Freire (1972). In addition, the use of innovative methods for engagement of the oppressed, using theatre methods developed by Augusto Boal (1995, 2000) was explored to add value to PRA. In addition, the application of Action Research ensured that community participants were actively involved in the research being conducted for this thesis.

The applied research in the Kat River Valley in South Africa evolved through three key phases. In Phase One quantifiable data on the Kat River Valley and its residents was sought. This investigation did not empower the resident communities of Fairbairn and Hertzog – a lesson that influenced the move to more participatory methods in subsequent phases of the research.

Lessons learned from using surveys encouraged exploration of participatory methods to enable participants to become “co-learners”. Phase Two of the research commenced with a series of feedback meetings, in which participants recognised that they faced an environmental crisis. Through a series of participatory workshops, residents came to acknowledge and affirm their environmental knowledge. Residents then committed themselves to gaining a deeper understanding of their environment and their lives. My role changed from that of a researcher to a facilitator.

Phase Three of the research and the shift to Action Research commenced after local residents identified the need to personally take charge of their environmental challenges in the Kat River Valley and recognised the need to collaborate at a catchment scale for effective IWRM. This eventually led to the formation of a Water User Association and Catchment Forum.

The key theoretical contribution of the thesis relates to the identified relationship between the development orientation and ecological paradigm, and an assessment of the impact this has on the inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes of IWRM. This theoretical contribution is equally valid in other countries, where the tradeoffs are essentially the same, but the framework for making the choices is different because of varying socio-economic and biophysical circumstances.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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