The expertise of young people in South Africa in relation to coping with the physical and mental impacts of drought is being harnessed for this co-productive research project led by Professor Angie Hart. The Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) has awarded funding of £166,000. Our team is working with partners to improve understanding about what enables young people to withstand, adapt to, resist or challenge these impacts. Details relating to the project were announced online by all three research councils supporting the project:
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
- and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Natural disasters negatively impact upon the social, economic, and environmental systems that affect young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The impacts of drought on young people are particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa where recurrent drought intersects with development challenges such as inequality, exclusion, poor education and a lack of employability skills.
Professor Hart’s team are focusing on young people in the South African municipality of Govan Mbeki in this key multi- and cross-disciplinary research project. Our researchers are collaborating closely with international partners including Khulisa Social Solutions, Boingboing and leading academics in the UK, South Africa and Canada.
Khulisa Social Solutions is a community organisation in South Africa supporting youth-led health and social care interventions. Young people with lived experience of adversity, from the UK-based social enterprise, are also involved. Other academics joining in with the research include Dr Clare Kelso from the University of Johannesburg, Professor Liesel Ebersöhn, Dr Motlalepule Mampane and Professor Linda Theron from the University of Pretoria (UP). Professor Theron is leading the South African team.
“A number of UP students completing their professional Masters degrees in Educational Psychology have committed to working in this project. The research focus, arts-based activities and partnerships with local and UK youth researchers will support these students to develop the necessary skills to be practitioners who are responsive to the needs and strengths of young clients challenged by the impacts of climate extremes and structural disadvantage.” – Professor Linda Theron, University of Pretoria
This research project commenced in November 2016.
“Drought is a recurrent environmental hazard in sub-Saharan Africa, and poses particular challenges for communities in South Africa where precipitation levels in the summer rainfall zone have progressively declined over the last hundred years.” – Professor David Nash, University of Brighton
The overarching aim of the research project is to find the best ways to help young people communicate their resilient responses to drought, and find ways that adults, governments and indeed young people themselves can ‘change the odds’ which put young people at risk. The research team have been:
- Using a blend of approaches from the sciences, arts and social sciences, together with information from archived newspapers, colonial records and rainfall data, to produce a timeline of droughts from the mid-nineteenth century.
- Working with a community partner and local masters students to encourage young people from Govan Mbeki to use arts-based activities to explore and communicate their personal, family, community, cultural, and environmental responses to times of drought.
- Sharing the timelines of drought severity with each young person and supporting them in approaching one adult to gather historical narratives of drought-related changes to their community to explore how the community coped with these challenges.
The academic team, students, youth and community organisations are using the data generated from these activities to co-produce a strategy to support the resilience of young people to drought-related challenges. This strategy uses drama to share knowledge and develop collective approaches to environmental challenges and opportunities. The youth researchers are being supported to identify a creative medium of their choice through which to communicate their emergent resilience strategy to relevant stakeholders.
“Our strategy will use drama to share knowledge and develop collective approaches to environmental challenges and opportunities. We will work alongside the South African youth researchers and a youth activist, learning from them. They will be identifying a creative medium of their choice through which to communicate their emergent resilience strategy to relevant stakeholders. As a UK artist and co-researcher whose been working with Boingboing for years in the UK, I’ll be learning a lot from being involved in this exciting new venture.” – Lisa Buttery, co-researcher from Boingboing
Project findings and impact
The research project is ongoing and outputs, findings and impact will be updated in due course.
“The UK project team feel excited and privileged to be working with our South African community partners and academics on this grant. We are looking forward to learning a lot from South African young people, and to applying that learning to other contexts. We intend to use the approach and findings of this study as the basis for a future large-scale investigation that will assess the relevance of our results to young people in other drought-stricken communities in South and sub-Saharan Africa.” – Professor Angie Hart, University of Brighton
You can find out how it’s going and what we’ve been up to by reading the blog articles below.
Other articles related to the Patterns of Resilience to Drought project
We began the task of coding all the data. Coding is the process of finding and grouping mentions of specific words and phrases, into common themes across lots of data. In this case it’s the group of transcripts that altogether add up to over 200 pages of data.read more
On Day 2 in Leandra, South Africa, as part of our Resilience to Drought project, Simon supports an image film-making workshop with young co-researchers exploring drought, led by Selogadi Mampaneread more
If you’ve been following our Drought Resilience project you’ll know we’ve been in South Africa working with young co-researchers from Leandra. Naz supports the research process in a collaborative arts workshop, lead by Selogadi.read more
Selogadi Mampane travelled all the way from Pretoria to give the Resilience Forum a live preview of her arts activist approach for young people, which is being used as part of the Patterns of Resilience to Drought project taking place in South Africa.read more
This co-produced blog was based on the reflections of the University of Pretoria and Boingboing co-researchers who met with young people from Leandra, a small township in South Africa, to explore community resilience to drought from loads of different angles.read more
Lisa, Angie and Scott attended research events as part of our Patterns of Resilience to Drought project. Lisa reports from the Global Challenges Research Fund & Collaborative Research event, and the Arts & Humanities Research Council summit.read more
This theatre workshop focussed on “the self as a starting point” using mapping to explore, communicate, share and make sense of personal narratives in relation to wider issues of human security, such as drought.read more
People from the University of Pretoria, University of Brighton, Boingboing and Khulisa are collaborating on a project: Patterns of Resilience to Drought, exploring community resilience to drought in South Africa from historical and contextual perspectives.read more
The Cultural Awareness session was an opportunity to have an open discussion about some of the issues that come up around cultural awareness. Like an iceburg, a lot of what makes up culture are things that we often cannot see or are below the surface.read more