Professor Betty Mubangizi

Research Chair

A message from the Research Chair

The livelihoods framework offers a useful lens through which to analyse the fragility and sustainability of livelihoods. The framework points to a set of livelihood resources (natural, social, human, physical and financial) as necessary for livelihood activities that produce ideal livelihood outcomes. For this to happen, the livelihood framework further suggests, there ought to be effective and efficient structures and processes operating within an ideal policy and legislative framework. Lastly, the framework reminds us of ‘shocks’ – these are the unexpected phenomena that occur to disrupt an otherwise stable livelihood, one with a clear set of livelihood activities operating within an ideal institutional, policy and legislative framework to produce desired livelihood outcomes. Livelihoods are affected by such shocks as floods, drought, global financial crises, political turmoil and diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such ‘shock’ to livelihoods across the globe. Livelihoods are said to be sustainable when they can cope with and recover from shocks, maintain resources and capabilities to engage in livelihood activities and do so without undermining the natural resource base. This is a tall order for many communities but more so for rural communities.

Rural livelihoods have always been fragile. In rural communities, problems rooted in colonialism and apartheid continue to manifest themselves in the form of spatial inequalities, inadequate transport, poorly resourced municipalities and a host of other socio-economic realities.

Most recently, global warming has significantly contributed to the already fragile livelihoods in many rural areas of Africa and South Africa is no exception. Prolonged dry seasons that destroy pasture and crops coupled with heavy rains that wash away bridges and tornados that blow off rooftops damaging infrastructure of homes, schools and clinics are not uncommon.

Since the early 1990s South Africa has placed a lot of emphasis on disaster management particularly on disaster risk reduction, the management of natural hazards and associated risks and vulnerabilities. The Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002 (The Act) is particularly instructive in its provision for an integrated and coordinated disaster management policy that focuses on preventing or reducing the risk of disasters, mitigating the severity of disasters, emergency preparedness, rapid and effective response to disasters and post-disaster recovery. Further, the Act provides for the establishment of national, provincial and municipal disaster management centers.  This Act, together with the National Disaster Management Policy Framework of 2005 places South Africa at the international forefront in integrating disaster risk reduction into all spheres of government through a decentralised approach.  For the first time, and in an unprecedented way, both the Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002 and National Disaster Management Policy Framework of 2005 have, in the midst of the COVID – 19 pandemic, have been put to the test.

This happened when the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs declared a ‘National State of Disaster” in terms of Section 27. Following this declaration, government, through public institutions, has had to adjust and adapt operations and mitigation strategies as a response to the pandemic.

But we are people of hope, and our collective hope is that the pandemic will pass and that lives will be saved… But what happens to livelihoods beyond this?  What are some of the issues we need to understand? To explain? What strengths do rural institutions possess? What key principles guide their activities? How do they communicate? How do they ensure inclusion? In responding to these questions, it is critical that we take into cognisance the state of rural livelihoods before the pandemic. We also need to look ahead and see what opportunities can be taken advantage of, what alliances can be forged and what challenges still lie ahead for rural livelihoods. In particular, it is helpful that we explore how well local government is equipped to ensure continuity of government, continuity of operations and a return to normality.

The above refers to a refinement of some of the issues that the SARChI Chair in Sustainable Rural Livelihoods intends to unpack and bring into focus. This is done through seminar series, community engagement with practitioners in rural areas and through Masters and Doctoral research projects.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Our team of researchers is currently involved in various research projects in different communities. The research covers divers issues ranging from public employment programmes,risk governance,municipal perfomance and governance networks.

OBJECTIVES OF THE CHAIR

The work of the Chair will support the capacity of researchers and public administrators to formulate and support effective public administration processes in responding to poverty and social exclusion within the framework of sustainable livelihoods.

ABOUT THE CHAIR

The Chair in Sustainable Local (Rural) Livelihoods is posited in the theory and practice of Public Administration and focuses on the public service delivery system as critical to reducing social exclusion and poverty among the rural, mainly women populace.

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