After a successful eight-year run, the UMngeni Resilience Project (URP) is in its final stages of implementation. The project, formerly named “Building Resilience in the Greater uMngeni River Catchment Project”, is a climate change adaptation project implemented through a partnership between the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (UMDM) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as the National Implementing Entity.

The project began in 2015, and will end in September 2023. Its objective is to alleviate negative impacts caused by climate change and extreme weather conditions in the vulnerable area of uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. The project was implemented in the rural areas of Swayimane, Vulindela and Nhlazuka, which fall within the uMshwathi, Msunduzi and Richmond local municipalities respectively. The selection of these rural areas was based on the natural disasters vulnerability assessments and the Let’s Respond toolkit developed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).

The main focus was to reduce climate change vulnerability and increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of small-scale farmers; using tools and technologies such as early warning systems, the application of built and ecological infrastructure to enhance resilience, and farm-level infrastructure and integration of climate change responses.

From 7-9 June 2023, the URP held a Climate Change Indaba at St Ives Lodge and Accommodation, in Howick – not far from Pietermaritzburg. On the first day of the Indaba, attendees visited Swayimane, Vulindlela and Nhlazuka project sites, to witness the work being done, so that lessons learned during implementation can be shared and policy recommendations to facilitate scaling interventions can be discussed.

At Swayimane, attendees were taken through how an early warning system works, the different types, and how they have come to help small scale farmers in the area by giving them weather alerts so they can prepare themselves for rainwater collection, lightning strikes and other extreme weather events.

Another group of attendees visited Vulindlela, where they saw a combination of built and ecological infrastructural interventions employed to enhance resilience to climate change. A weir was constructed to regulate the flow of the river, the removal of the alien invasive wattle plant, the fencing of a spring for animal control and the restoration of gullies using berms and eco-logs. These interventions resulted in the management of floods, an improvement of grazing areas for livestock, and addressing soil erosion on cattle paths.

The third site of Nhlazuka, within the Richmond Local Municipality, is where visitors saw the impact of built infrastructure interventions of the project; with a demonstration of the fire early warning system interventions used at the Richmond Fire Protection Agency.

Upon return from the site visits, a debriefing session took place, so that participants could provide feedback on the sites they visited, and also address any outstanding questions.

The first day ended with a Celebratory Gala Dinner, which saw a number of distinguished guests in attendance. Click here to read about the Celebratory Gala Dinner

The Indaba continued for the next two days, where on Thursday, SANBI Head of Branch, Ms Carmel Mbizvo, gave an opening welcome address and UKZN’s, Professor Roland Schulze, gave the keynote address. This was followed by a full day of parallel sessions. The morning sessions were themed around ‘The role of climate information services in disaster risk management’; and ‘climate-proofing built and ecological infrastructure’. Afternoon sessions were themed around ‘Sustainable and resilient food systems’; and ‘Transformational development to build capacity’.

Day 2 concluded with a networking cocktail dinner to give participants an opportunity for conversations and to make connections.

The last day of the Indaba was facilitated by, Dr Mandy Barnett, SANBI Chief Director: Adaptation Policy and Resourcing. Plenary sessions for the last day looked at  ‘Adaptation lessons learned and policy recommendations’, and the last session was themed around ‘Design and implementation of integrated climate change adaptation’.

Professor Mabhaudi thanked both the UKZN and SANBI teams for arranging the logistics that made the Indaba and the Celebratory Gala Dinner possible.

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