Resilience among young people in a community affected by drought

Resilience among young people in a community affected by drought

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 will work 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 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 will be focusing on young people in the South African municipality of Govan Mbeki in this key multi- and cross-disciplinary research project. Our researchers will be 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

Drought Project

Project time-frame

This nine-month research project commenced in November 2016 and will end in July 2017.

“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

Project aims

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 will:

  • Use 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.
  • Work with a community partner and local masters students and 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.
  • Share the timelines of drought severity with each young person and support them in approaching one adult to gather historical narratives of drought-related changes to their community and explore how the community coped with these challenges.

The academic team, students, youth and community organisations will use the data generated from these activities to co-produce a strategy to support the resilience of young people to drought-related challenges. This strategy will use drama to share knowledge and develop collective approaches to environmental challenges and opportunities. The youth researchers will be supported in identifying 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

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