Strengthening research capacity of China and South Africa (SA) in sustainable water resources management with UK and Australian experiences

Both China and South Africa (SA) face enormous challenges in water scarcity and management. Institutionalizing ecosystem services which also have potential to alleviate poverty within unfolding climate change is a significant theme in water resource management.

Implementation of the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Australia's integrated catchment management in the Murray-Darling Basin provide potentially valuable lessons for China and South Africa.

However, there are significant differences in the socio-political and geographic contexts among these four countries. The opportunity to collaborate in both comparative and parallel research and knowledge exchange offers significant potential for mutual progress and a more global solution for sustainable water management.

The objective of this project was to strengthen research capacity in China and South Africa as well as providing a platform for reflexive learning by all parties for sustainable water resource management. This was achieved through the joint preparation of a five year research programme to elucidate and improve the systemic relationships between poverty alleviation, integrated and sustainable water management through the use of ecosystem services in Baiyangdian Lake catchment in China and the Inkomati catchment in South Africa.

This project of 10 scientists with multi-disciplinary expertise from the U.K, Australia, China and South Africa ran for 11 months; the main activities included the Baiyangdian Lake Workshop, Inkomati Catchment Workshop and final virtual conference.

The Baiyangdian Lake Workshop was preceded by a systemic, contextual analysis. A 'learning system' with Inkomati stakeholders was used to guide the design of the Baiyangdian Lake Workshop. It was adapted to include one-day's evaluation, one-day's study tour; two-day's presentations (every investigator presented his/her research programme in combination with his/her research background contextualised to the Baiyangdian Lake situation), half-day's training on Geographic Information System (GIS) tool and management of research projects and half-day's summary. The Baiyangdian Lake Workshop provided an initial experiential event in which tentative research agendas were developed. These were complemented and reinforced by the Inkomati Catchment Workshop, then consolidated through a combination of a virtual confernece and written exchanges.

The outputs of this project were

  1. strengthened research capacity in China and South Africa through a process of developing a five-year research programme for two major case studies to showcase sustainable water resource management balancing ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in China and South Africa
  2. two peer-reviewed papers
  3. a Geographic Information System-based tool for spatially presenting the ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and linking the two
  4. an established inter-disciplinary partnership and on-going research projects to exchange experiences and information and to address together the pressing ecosystem services and poverty issues
  5. a contextual evaluation of China and South Africa capacity building to manage research
  6. refinement and elaboration of the Watercourse 'learning system' now being implemented in South Africa.

The prepared five-year research programme was used by the local governments, water and environment mangers, various stakeholders, international agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to develop scientific understandings and policies for poverty alleviation through improving catchment ecosystem services. The resulting datasets were used in the on-going research projects through the research network among four countries established by this project.

A detailed report including scientific methods and policy recommendations based on the findings at the case study sites reached a wide audience and had a beneficial effect on poverty alleviation through improvement of catchment ecosystem services in both China and South Africa through press release, follow up media work and symposia.

Lead Principal Investigator
Organisation: Open University
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: Open University
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Melbourne
Country: Australia