IWR Prof. Tally Palmer as key speaker in webinar: “Adaptive Systemic Approach to community-led and engaged research”

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Prof. Tally Palmer, Director of the ARUA Water Centre of Excellence and the Institute of Water Research, Rhodes University
Prof. Tally Palmer, Director of the ARUA Water Centre of Excellence and the Institute of Water Research, Rhodes University


Professor Tally Palmer, from Rhodes University, Institute for Water Research (IWR) led a webinar on ‘An adaptive, systemic approach to community-led engaged research’. The webinar was chaired by, Professor Cyril Nhlanhla Mbatha, from Rhodes Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). The presentation by Prof. Palmer was followed by a brief presentation by Dr. Nontuthuzelo Gola from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on her work on water security in the uMngeni River catchment in South Africa.

Prof. Palmer is the Director of the IWR and the African Research University Alliance (ARUA) Water Centre of Excellence (CoE) hosted by IWR at Rhodes University. Prof. Palmer is a seminal leader in the field of engaged transdisciplinary research and complexity- systems based approaches to integrated water resource management (IWRM).


Dr. Gola works for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and is currently the Ecological Infrastructure Coordinator for the Greater uMngeni Catchment under the ‘Ecological Infrastructure for Water Security’ Project at SANBI. She holds a PhD in Water Resource Science from Rhodes University.


The Webinar

Prof. Palmer led the webinar by introducing the key principles of the ASA concept and how these can be applied to solving water and land related problems in South Africa and across the African continent. The ASA steps summarized by Prof. Palmer during the webinar include:

1. Bounding the project system by bringing together all key stakeholders with their unique knowledge to understand the water / land related issue at hand.

2. An adaptive planning process with key stakeholders to consider the many factors that contribute to and interact to shape the particular water / land issue and develop a plan for addressing the issue.

3. Undertaking research and stakeholder engagement to apply the plan (from 2. above) and attempt to develop participatory governance for addressing the water / land issue.

4. Apply a participatory monitoring, evaluation, reflection and learning process related to the above steps to document lessons learnt and adjust the project plans and objectives from the lessons learnt. 

Prof. Palmer indicated that the ARUA Water CoE is applying the ASA in a project called, ‘Unlocking resilient benefits from African water resources (RESBEN)’. This project brings together partners from six universities across Africa and three universities in South Africa to collaborate on research that addresses SDG6: Sustainable water and sanitation for all. One of the key issues that the RESBEN project will focus on is water resources governance and how this strongly influences how we address water and land related issues in Africa. In particular, the focus is on governance that centers around inclusive and participatory decision-making including as many key stakeholders as possible. The project is also founded on a transdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing water issues that are complex and require knowledge inputs from multiple knowledge bases and disciplines. 

Dr. Gola added to the presentation by indicating how the ASA is being applied to water management related issues in the uMngeni River Catchment in South Africa. Dr. Gola indicated the importance of participatory planning processes and stakeholder engagement for addressing the existing water issues in the uMngeni.

Final remark

The webinar was well received by local senior academics and postgraduate students who gained insight into the importance of the adaptive systemic approach for participatory and engaged research that has a real impact on how we manage land and water resource issues in South Africa.



Source:  IWR

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