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Bonani Madikizela  
 Wetland management research in South Africa grows

 As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy, the Water Research Commission (WRC) boasts huge investments on wetland management research.

In 2009, the WRC commissioned a study to obtain a holistic picture of the economic, social, institutional and environmental impact of wetland research supported by the WRC. The study has shown that the WRC has invested nearly R50 million in 67 research studies with a wetland objective. The majority (99%) of the investment reported here was made between 2002 to 2010, and an estimated 10% of this investment was co-funded by other donors. This confirms stakeholder perception that the WRC plays a critical role in funding and guiding wetland research. The investment also has an indirect economic impact in that it is directed toward resources (biodiversity, water) and infrastructure (wetlands) of public benefit. Conservatively, 25% of the wetland research was geared to support sustainable development and 18% sustainable practice. Over half (57%) of these projects were commissioned in the last five years, and stakeholders indicate a continued need for resource economic studies on the value of wetlands.

 According to the WRC, Executive Manager Dr Stanley Liphadzi the WRC supported wetland research made a valuable social and institutional contribution. An estimated 74% (R37 million) of the investment was used to procure the services of nearly 70 research organizations and nearly 180 researchers. Approximately 70% of the projects supported career development and employment, through education and training of post-graduate students and emerging researchers.

 Mr Bonani Madikizela, WRC Research Manager says,”WRC wetland research also contributed to gender equality and diversity. Nearly 80% of projects engaged female researchers and 55% historically disadvantaged researchers. In 2009 alone, Working for Wetlands rehabilitated 95 wetlands, created employment for 1500 people and supported 250 small businesses. An estimated 26% of the projects produced knowledge and tools to support sustainable wetland use and livelihood development”.

This investment has resulted in the development of a community of practice around wetland research, with on average organizations per project acknowledged for their engagement in the research process. Over 600 acknowledged broader stakeholder groups were identified, including local authorities, community organizations and individuals. Research has raised public awareness of wetlands and undoubtedly built role of wetlands in climate change adaptation.

Incidental reports by practitioners indicate that wetland rehabilitation is resulting in improved environmental flows, retention of water in the landscape for longer periods and return of biodiversity (wetland plants and birds). A national wetland monitoring system is needed to systematically ascertain the longer-term impact of wetland interventions. In this regard stakeholders raised the possibility of collaboration with the South African Earth Observation Network (SAEON) and the potential for sourcing funding for research and monitoring by focusing on climate change adaptation.

Article based on WRC Report No. KV 253/10 entitled “An impact assessment of the research funded by WRC on wetland management in South Africa”.

Contact: Dr Stanley Liphadzi by email: stanleyl@wrc.org.za or Mr. Bonani Madikizela email: bonanim@wrc.org.za



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