A three-day national Climate Change Indaba held at St Ives in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands celebrated the successful implementation of one of South Africa’s climate change adaptation flagship projects, the uMngeni Resilience Project (URP).
Beginning with visits to three wards - Vulindlela, Swayimane, and Nhlazuka - within the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (uMDM), the Indaba gave participants from government, civil society, academia, business, policymaking and research institutes more insight into interventions undertaken by a partnership of researchers, local government entities, and organisations to reduce the vulnerability of communities and smallholder farmers to the impacts of climate change. Funded by the Adaptation Fund with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as the National Implementing Entity, and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) as the National Designated Authority providing strategic oversight, the URP began in 2015 and was implemented at the local government scale by the uMDM in partnership with UKZN’s Centre for Transformative Agricultural and Food Systems.
The Indaba focused on policy recommendations for mainstreaming climate change adaptation into disaster risk reduction, as informed by early warning systems; built and ecological infrastructure to strengthen rural human settlements, and climate-resilient agriculture.
The three-day hybrid event was presented in-person and virtually, with the first day comprising field visits to four demonstration sites active throughout the operation of the URP, setting the scene for discussions.
Forming an important milestone for the URP in its final stages to disseminate lessons learnt and provide policy recommendations to facilitate scaling solutions, the Indaba explored strengthening water, ecological and food security in the face of a changing climate, while protecting natural ecosystems and ecological infrastructure in support of South Africa’s national developmental agenda and green economy objectives. It promoted linkages and allowed for focused engagements with other ongoing national and regional climate change adaptation projects and processes.
Participants were part of far-reaching efforts to inform, facilitate and mainstream adaptation to a changing climate. A celebratory gala dinner that reflected on the achievements of the project, its implementing organisations, and individuals within it, was attended by mayors and councillors from the uMgungundlovu, Richmond, uMshwathi, uMngeni, Mpofana, and Mkhambathini local municipalities.
‘When we work together, we achieve impact on the ground; we have a common agenda to improve the lives of people,’ said Project Director at UKZN, Honorary Associate Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi, who highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion enriching the process of innovation when partners worked toward a shared vision using their strengths in a complementary manner.
Mabhaudhi spoke about the science-policy-practice interface at the Indaba, where compromise was necessary to reach a common destination.
Head of SANBI’s Biodiversity Science and Policy Advice Branch Ms Carmel Mbizvo welcomed delegates to the event.
‘The URP is really the first flagship project when it comes to climate change adaptation and has set a great basis for us to move forward with new initiatives and to build on what we’ve learnt through the challenges of working from community all the way up to the national level to strengthen institutional arrangements to ensure sustainability and impact,’ said Mbizvo.
‘The project serves as a classic example of how formidable partnerships based on people and nature can be, and demonstrated the importance of partnerships delivering results that benefit communities,’ said Mr Barney Kgope of the DFFE on behalf of Chief Director: Climate Change Adaptation Mr Tlou Ramaru, who expressed appreciation to UKZN and SANBI for supporting the URP.
An opening keynote address by eminent climate change and hydrological expert Emeritus Professor Roland Schulze of UKZN focused on asking the right questions and avoiding falling into a climate change trap.
Presentations and panel discussions at the Indaba centred on the themes that informed the URP’s actions. Parallel sessions provided the opportunity to explore the role of climate services in disaster risk management, climate-proofing built and ecological infrastructure, sustainable and resilient food systems, and transformational development to build capacity.
The final session provided insight into how the URP emerged and its place in the context of climate finance in South Africa, what was learnt during the project’s implementation, national approaches to adaptation planning, and how to scale up and replicate interventions trialled through the URP.