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Unlearning and Learning: Reflections on our visit to Cape Town

20 Sep 2016 - 10:45

By Tanvi Deshpande and Kavya Michael

Kavya Michael and Tanvi Deshpande from the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), visited Cape Town as part of the first ASSAR Small Opportunities Grant (ASOG). The ASSAR project launched a grant for young researchers to take advantage of the diverse expertise across ASSAR partners. This was with the aim of fostering knowledge and capacity building of researchers in relevant specialty areas.

We submitted a proposal titled “Examining Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity in a Dynamic Urban Setting” for the grant. This proposal examined how the effects of climate change - filtered through existing socio-economic-political-cultural dynamics – is experienced by the most marginalised groups in the city and its peripheries.  This links with the ASSAR Social Differentiation & Gender workstream research question: understanding dimensions of well-being of the poor and the marginalized. Professor Gina Ziervogel, an expert on climate change vulnerability, adaptation and cross scalar governance issues, hosted us for two weeks at the University of Cape Town (UCT). 

Discussions with Professor Gina Ziervogel

During these two weeks we:

1) presented our on-going ASSAR research work on how multiple intersections between climatic and non-climatic factors shape the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of inter-state migrant waste pickers in Bangalore at the African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI). 

2) attended two workshops on a) "Water Equity and Resilience in Southern Africa" and b)"Justice and resilience in African cities: implications for adapting to climate change". 

3) During the workshops we met with and shared our experiences with many experts working on issues of resilience and justice. Some of the experts we met include Dr. Leila Harris (University of British Colombia), Dr. Jacqueline Goldin (University of Western Cape), Dr. Dianne Scott (UCT), Dr. Catherine Sutherland (UKZN), Prof. Mark New (UCT), Dr. Mark Pelling (KCL), Dr. Susan Parnell (UCT), Anton Cartwright (UCT), Dr. Eric Chu (University of Amsterdam), Benjamin Klaus (Association of Local Authorities Tanzania, ALAT), Jean Kaunda (Mzuzu University), Trish Zweig (Stellenbosch University) and Aditya Kumar (Development Action Group). 

Workshop in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Our takeaways

It was a very enriching and fulfilling opportunity for us to work with Prof. Gina Ziervogel, who also facilitated our engagement with a number of experts. ASSAR’s overarching research objective is to “use insights from multiple-scale, interdisciplinary work to improve the understanding of the barriers, enablers and limits to effective, sustained and widespread adaptation out to the 2030s”. Through our deliberations with Gina and interactions with various experts we were able to understand multiple narratives for engaging with issues of justice and its criticality in understanding and addressing barriers to adaptation.

In the urban space we had interesting discussions and deliberations around the complex intersections between climate change, emerging patterns of urbanization and resultant marginalization of certain groups.This knowledge will shape our research in urban and peri urban areas of Bangalore. This will be done by examining vulnerability from a systemic perspective, explicitly looking at questions of inequality and justice and how these intersect with the challenges related to climate variability and change.  

We are also working towards a prospective collaborative research paper with Prof. Gina Ziervogel that will examine the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities in a dynamic urban setting, using the case of interstate migrant waste pickers in Bangalore.

About the workshops

Water Equity and Resilience in Southern Africa

An international workshop hosted by the International WaTERS Network, with support of the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies and the NEPAD water centres for excellence at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, Stellenbosch. The workshop critically interrogated notions of resilience, particularly giving attention to definitions in different disciplinary traditions in an interdisciplinary context.

Justice and resilience in African cities: implications for adapting to climate change

A workshop organized by Professor Gina Ziervogel (UCT), Lorena Pasquini (UCT) and Mark Pelling (King’s College London). The workshop critically engaged with the underlying mechanisms shaping trade-offs between resilience and justice across scales in the African urban adaptation context.  


Unlearning and learning; sharing experiences, meeting new people, travelling and enjoying Cape Town, this visit turned out to be a unique experience.