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Date Released: Tue, 11 April 2017 10:32 +0200

It is with great pleasure that we announce the winners of the 2016 Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Community Engagement. The joint winners of this prestigious award are:

1. The WRC Amanzi for Food Research Programme from the Environmental Learning Research Centre at Rhodes. The group is led by Heila Lotz-Sisitka. Other members of the group include Tichaona Pesanayi, Kim Weaver, Chisala Lupele, Lawrence Sisitka, Rob O’Donoghue, Phindile Sithole, Wilma van Staden, Chris Mabeza, Jonathan Denison and Katrina Phillips.

2. The Recreational Fisheries Research Group from the Department of Ichthyology & Fisheries Science. The group is led by Warren Potts. Other members include Matthew Parkinson, Amber Childs, David Drennan, Alexander Winkler, Edward Butler and Samantha Mannheim.

Congratulations to these two teams, who established mutually respectful and beneficial relationships between University students, researchers and community stakeholders as they jointly tackled and found solutions to complexed local issues. The Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Education must also be acknowledged for creating enabling environments where innovation and engaged research can flourish.

Below is a summary of the work undertaken by each Team.

Associate Professor Warren Potts and the Recreational Fisheries Research Group
(Matthew Parkinson, Dr Amber Childs, David Drennan, Alexander Winkler, Edward Butler, Samantha Mannheim)

There are between 500 000 and 900 000 marine recreational fishers in South Africa. These significantly outnumber the commercial (3450), small-scale (± 5000), and subsistence fishers (± 15 000), and recreational fishers who also target linefish (fishes captured using hook and line) species, and their annual harvest is far greater. This disproportionate harvest when compared with other sectors, for which coastal fishes is a source of livelihood, is a social injustice that has developed from South Africa’s early history. Besides not requiring fish for their livelihoods, recreational fishers are also different from commercial, small-scale and subsistence fishers as their motivations for fishing are not only catching fish, including, for example relaxation and spending time outdoors. Presently the catch of the recreational fishery is subject to a number of regulations. Unfortunately, the majority of these regulations were implemented in a top-down approach, without angler consultation and a recent study estimated that about 43% of anglers do not comply with these regulations. In addition, research has shown that not all of the fish that are released by the compliant (57%) recreational anglers survive, with some studies reporting mortality rates of over 90%. Recreational fisheries have the potential to reduce fish stocks further than commercial and small-scale fisheries. If recreational harvests are not carefully managed, the potential for the expansion of the subsistence and small-scale sectors (because of limited resources) and therefore the achievement of social and economic Millennium Development Goals is limited. Ultimately, if one wants to benefit under-resourced fishing communities, and address social injustice, addressing the harvest of recreational anglers is crucial.
This community engagement initiative by the Recreational Fisheries Research Group undertaken since 2011 has engaged with compliant anglers in recreational fishing communities to enhance their practices in order to improve the health and survival of the fish that they release.
Since 2011 the Research Group began developing a rapport with the recreational fishing community, who can be notoriously anti-scientific, due to the traditional top-down type input and perception that scientists are a threat to their activities. By immersing themselves into the culture and norms of the communities they were working in, they were able to develop a relationship of trust between themselves and the community members which allowed them to make a contribution to the community beyond simply providing advice on the success and management of the fishery. The Research Group followed a program in which they worked to develop voluntary conservation behaviour within recreational fishing communities. This kind of voluntary behaviour required anglers to mobilise themselves and establish informal regulations such as self-imposed personal bag limits, size limits, constraints on gear and the development of entirely catch-and-release fisheries.
Through a program of extensive engagement with regional and notional bodies, as well as on the ground demonstrations and networking within angling communities, the team has been successful in shifting both the understandings of the importance of post-release fish survival within the community, and the attitude of recreational fishermen towards fisheries. The group has found that through their large scale and strategic interventions they have managed to have a significant impact on angler behaviour – and the Group has been hailed internationally as the first research group to actually demonstrate that they were able to improve angler catch-and-release behaviour and improve fish health and survival. The Recreational Fisheries Research Group has developed from a simple community engagement project to a truly engaged research project, with tangible benefits to both parties, and postgraduate dissertation research. Their engagement happens at a local, national and even an international level (Namibia). The results of this research also feeds back into a number of other recreational fisheries research projects, including the WWF “Fishtory” and “Catch Report” projects and is leading the way in terms of understanding the mechanisms that drive improvements in angler catch-and-release behaviour.
Since 2013, the Research Group has given 22 presentations to anglers on a wide range of topics, including the status of South Africa’s fish stocks, the science of catch-and-release angling, results of the national competitions and how science/public partnerships can benefit the environment. The Group acts as the Scientific Advisory Team of the RASSPL Africa National Executive Committee and play an integral part in modifying the rules for the league, and are responsible for more than 14 rule changes that aim to improve fish handling practices and the sustainability of coastal fisheries over the last three years. When you consider that their engagements directly influenced approximately 500 individual anglers in the 2016/2017 season alone, and that they, in turn, will go on to influence the behaviour of other anglers, the value of this community engagement effort to the sustainability of fish populations and to coastal communities that are reliant on these fishes becomes truly apparent.

The WRC Amanzi for Food Research Programme
(Heila Lotz?Sisitka, Tichaona Pesanayi, Kim Weaver, Chisala Lupele, Lawrence Sisitka, Rob O’Donoghue, Phindile Sithole, Wilma van Staden, Chris Mabeza, Jonathan Denison and Katrina Phillips.)

Household food security in South Africa remains a national challenge with an estimated 59% of 13.7 million households being food insecure, with hunger and chronic malnutrition being widespread within this group. Agriculture contributes significantly to the livelihoods of an estimated 4.5 million people who have access to small portions of agricultural land, estimated at 6?12% of household income in a rain?fed context and 21?60% in an irrigated context. Yet, utilisation of available land water resources for smallholders, both in home?gardens and fields remain low. Initial project analysis showed that agricultural colleges (in the Eastern Cape and elsewhere) continue to focus on larger scale farming and mainstream irrigation technologies, despite the fact that water is increasingly scarce, and that agricultural sector is the largest water user in South Africa. Currently all of South Africa’s water is allocated, and there is little ‘new’ water for developing the smallholder farmer sector, especially in the face of climate change challenges.
The Amanzi for Food Research Programme takes an action-oriented, expansive learning approach to knowledge co-creation, dissemination and training for skills development around water use in homestead food gardening and rain water harvesting for cropland food production in the Amathole District in the Eastern Cape. The programme was developed in response to a Water Research Commission (WRC) request to develop an action?oriented approach to sharing research?based information on Rainwater Harvesting and Conservation in the agricultural sector, with emphasis on smallholder and household food production settings. Over a three year period the project has developed a co-engaged learning network approach that crosses borders between universities, colleges, municipality, extension services, farmers and farmers associations in the rural Eastern Cape.
Participants in the Amanzi for Food Programme include smallholder farmers, extension officers, local economic development facilitators, research technicians from a research station, and students and lecturers from tertiary institutions (Agricultural Training Institutes and Universities). The programme facilitated the formation of ‘Imvotho Bubomi’ (literally, Water is Life), a learning network bringing together many different agricultural partners in the Raymond Mhlaba (formerly Nkonkobe) municipal area. Members of the network undertook a Rhodes University accredited participatory ‘Training of Trainers’ course in Rainwater Harvesting and Conservation.
The programme has been structured around four components to ensure systematic development of the knowledge dissemination strategy:
• Knowledge dissemination and mediation with curriculum development in Agricultural Training Institutes (Colleges and Universities)
• Knowledge dissemination and mediation amongst government extension organisations
• Extended materials development to complement the WRC materials for use in the other components, i.e. the development of a website, blog and integration into other on?line information systems (visit www.amanziforfood.co.za)
• Knowledge dissemination and mediation using public media (especially radio and local newspapers)
A key focus of the programme was activity focussing on the development of productive demonstration sites in the community and college settings. Three different productive demonstration sites were set up via a collaborative model: one in the college, on in a communal plot (involving elderly women farmers) and one on a successful farming site. These three productive demonstration sites were chosen by the learning network for their learning potential, and for their potential impact on actual food production practices in the community. Formative intervention methodologies were used to enhance expansive learning around the productive demonstration sites. This methodology is a cultural historical activity–based methodology that ensures multi?voiced engagement with matters of concern, and gives attention to historical and cultural situated practices, including indigenous knowledge of rainwater harvesting and conservation practices. It also uses a boundary?crossing approach or ‘Change?based workshops’ to bring diverse groups together into dialogue with each other. These workshops were essential for meaning making and co?construction and selection of solutions to the local water problems being experienced by farmers in the area.
The Amanzi for Food programme achieved expected outcomes through innovation in the development of a change practices course activating a learning network, instead of pursuing the normative Research?Develop?Disseminate?Adopt strategy that has not worked very well and yet continues to be used by scientists or experts for knowledge dissemination. This approach blended scientific and other ways of knowing in ensuring knowledge co?creation (instead of mere dissemination). The research programme has also allowed for considerable student capacity building as students have worked through the engaged, generative research on their personal postgraduate journeys (1 phd, 3 masters). Three of these student researchers were awarded the 2016 Community Engagement Student Researcher of the year award for their work in this project. The project was selected as one of three projects internationally as a case study of ‘innovative green economy learning’ which responds to an important green economy demand issue using an innovative learning and change approach. The Amanzi for Food programme has been selected as a case study of innovative TVET pedagogy and partnership development for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) National Skills Development Strategy III Evaluation.


Source:Community Engagement Division