CAPE TOWN: The impacts of climate change are too region-specific to allow for generalised development projects to be run at pilot level and then ‘upscaled’ viably across a wider region.
Speaking at a water and climate change seminar hosted by the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) this week, EMG project manager Jessica Wilson said it was time to interrogate the idea that a project which works well in one place can be rolled out everywhere.
The seminar brought activists and residents from Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town, together with researchers and Cape Town-based civil society organisations to discuss the concepts and terminology widely used in climate change circles. Some of these terms are often inaccessible for the communities that must deal with the practicalities of a society responding to climatic change.
Focusing on the notion of resilience, Wilson drew on the organisation’s work within communities to outline the factors which may contribute to building greater resilience in the face of shifting long term weather trends.
‘One factor that contributes to resilience is that of attitude. When people are open minded, willing to face reality, to learn, share and cooperate,’ she said.
The appropriate infrastructure and technology are also key, particularly if it works, is well maintained, is easy to use and suitable to the needs of the community.
‘For instance, desalination should be kept as a last resort because it is energy intensive.’
Trust, cooperation and self-organisation are important within and between organisations. The Makhaza Wetland and Food Growers association was given as an example of community activists who have mobilised and successfully lobbied government around water service delivery.
‘Adaptive learning and understanding are important, too. Skills, climate change information, understanding one’s role as a change agent – these are all key at an individual and institutional level.’
Finally, resilient communities need buffers and diversity, as ways of absorbing the environmental shocks associated with climate impacts.
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