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FEATURE: SARUA publishes results of its regional climate change mapping study


A new knowledge framework by the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) highlights opportunities for universities to work together for the benefit of climate compatible development in the region. 

Universities in southern Africa realise they need to strengthen their contributions to addressing climate change in the region, together with other knowledge partners in government, the private sector and civil society. This is according to Piyushi Kotecha, the CEO of the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), when she presented the results of a first-of-a-kind climate change mapping study to the SARUA executive and representatives from 24 universities at a Leadership Dialogue held on 6 May at Spier Conference Centre in South Africa.

Kotecha re-emphasised previous SARUA research which had shown the necessity of regional collaboration and especially the need for more South-South collaboration in research. The mapping study has reinforced this: while there is research being done in SADC countries, little of this is being published in the international arena by southern African researchers.There is also a shortage of doctoral graduates and supervisors in the region. If southern African countries wish to respond innovatively to climate change impacts, they need to prioritise new knowledge production.

“The climate change challenges facing the region cannot be resolved in isolation, nor by applying methodologies, perspectives and approaches of the past.” This is why, she says, SARUA, a Southern African Development Community (SADC) subsidiary organisation, developed a framework for transdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge co-production across the three university pillars of research, teaching and learning and community engagement. The framework also addresses the roles of policy makers in enabling universities to have a significant impact on the region’s future development path.

According to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), southern Africa’s warming is likely to exceed the global mean land surface temperature increase in all seasons. This could result in a possible increase of up to 6°C by the end of the century, while regional rainfall is expected to decrease on the whole. If this happens, it would mean increased droughts, flooding, more wind storms, hot spells and wild fires in the already vulnerable region.

By publishing the mapping study results and the Knowledge Co-Production Framework for Climate Compatible Development in Southern Africa online, SARUA is providing a platform for self-organised knowledge sharing and collaboration amongst universities on the issue of climate change. Later in 2014, SARUA will be launching an Expression of Interest (EOI) process to establish up to four collaborative networks in the region. These four networks will focus on (i) research across seven themed transdisciplinary clusters, (ii) curriculum innovation, (iii) institutional and policy development, and (iv) capacity development. Each network and research cluster will have a coordinating body and network membership will be open to SARUA members and their employees. SARUA has begun to raise funds for these networks and hopes to launch them in the coming months.

“From the feedback we received at the Spier Leadership Dialogue and the excitement shown by university members to be part of such a ground-breaking initiative, we are confident that the SARUA member universities can make a substantive and long-lasting contribution to development in the region, as well as to the region’s response to one of the major threats to human development.”

The SARUA Climate Change Counts mapping study is part of a longer term Capacity Development Programme for Climate Change developed by SARUA and member universities in 2010, as a direct response to the climate change impacts facing southern Africa. The mapping study comprised an intensive 18-month period of stakeholder engagement across 12 countries by a regional team of eighteen specialists, who were managed on behalf of SARUA by Higher Education Management Africa (HEMA). Workshops were facilitated in each of the countries by lead authors Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka and Penny Urquhart. Fifteen universities in the region made direct contributions to the mapping study and additional funding was provided by the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme.

The findings of the mapping study are available on the SARUA website in two volumes: the regionally integrated knowledge co-production framework, supported by 12 individual country reports. The documents can be downloaded from www.sarua.org:

Volume 1, Number 1: Knowledge Co-Production Framework

  • Final Report [English] (French and Portugese versions available July 2014)

Volume 2: Country Reports [English]

 

For more infomation visit the CDKN project page.

 

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