Addressing Climate Risk and Building Adaptive Capacity in South African Biosphere Reserves

From 01-10 June 2022, ICIWaRM participated in workshops in Hoedspruit and Cape Town, South Africa under the UNESCO project titled “Biosphere Reserves  as Observatories for  Climate Change Adaptation in Southern Africa”, or “Be-Resilient”. The project is under UNESCO’s G-WADI major initiative.

The project objective is to strengthen the role of Biosphere Reserves in Southern Africa as Observatories for Climate Change Adaptation and to act as drivers of change and demonstration learning sites for sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. Data and models for evaluating climate vulnerabilities and adaptation plans are being co-produced with local government officials, stakeholders, NGOs and universities. Primary funding for the work is from the Government of Flanders through the Flanders UNESCO Fund for Science. This work also supports the USAID Resilient Waters program, & will support future work in the BUPUSA, Limpopo & Okavango basins.

Dozens of collaborators and stakeholders from the South African Government, UNESCO, Deltares, ICIWaRM, AGWA, University of Cincinnati and Stellenbosch University participated, as did representatives from the Vhembe, Groot Marico, Kruger-to-Canyons (K2C) and Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserves and South African Water Management Agencies. Workshops involved co-production of models and data to evaluate ecological vulnerabilities in the four UNESCO biosphere reserves under a range of climate scenarios developed collaboratively. 

In the future, regional scale climate vulnerability assessment scenarios will be integrated into similar work in BUPUSA, Limpopo and Okavango basins. Continued engagement is planned through 2023 with follow-up, in-person workshops.