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Research

Research Themes

The Afromontane Research Unit is organised into three inter-related themes:

Theme 1: Conservation and sustainable usage of Afromontane biodiversity

Theme 2: Living and doing business in Afromontane environments

Theme 3: Sustainable futures for the people of the Afromontane


Theme 1: Conservation and sustainable usage of Afromontane biodiversity
Conservation and sustainable

The natural environment of the study area has many features of importance – sensitive biodiversity, important high altitude wetlands that supply water to rivers important in the lowlands, protected areas and national parks, as well as informal protected areas.

Afromontane regions in Southern Africa and the rest of the continent often represent the last vestiges of fast-vanishing ecosystems, such as the dwindling Afromontane forests in South Africa and the shrinking Alpine grass meadows of the Ethiopian Highlands. Not only do these areas represent biological unique areas, but the mountainous areas of our continent have significant, yet poorly studied impacts on the more densely populated low-lying regions. These present rich opportunities for research for the Afromontane Research Unit.

Focus areas within this theme:

  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem goods and services and the “Green Economy”
  • Climate change and natural hazards
  • Land use and catchment management

For more information contact:
Dr Aliza le Roux
E: lerouxa3@ufs.ac.za

Theme 2: Living and doing business in Afromontane environments

Living and doing business in Afromontane environments

The characteristics of high-altitude environments (and of the communities that call them home) mean that development in highland areas requires mountain-specific strategies, based on mountain-specific research and knowledge.

In the past, however, governments tended to concentrate development planning and service provision in lowland areas, traditionally centres for national economic production, leaving poverty and development issues in mountain regions unaddressed. In addition to poor access to water resources, those living in mountainous areas are often particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable to food insecurity, tend to suffer from higher levels of poverty, and relatively higher levels of undernourishment.

However, economic conditions of people living in mountains are highly heterogeneous and there is a risk of making generalisations. There is a need to investigate the many aspects that constrain or promote economic growth in the montane communities in the study area. The impacts of climate change will need to be mitigated and new forms of livelihoods developed which are not as vulnerable to environmental risks, and which promote a green economy.

Focus areas within this theme:

  • Food security and nutrition
  • Afromontane economies
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Rural development and connectivity
  • Social ecological systems

For more information contact:
Dr Geofrey Mukwada
E: mukwadag@ufs.ac.za

Theme 3: Sustainable futures for the people of the Afromontane

Sustainable futures for the people of the Afromontane

In spite of the obvious importance of mountain areas, the issue of sustainable futures for the people of the Afromontane does not receive the attention and priority it deserves. Mountain people are among the most marginalised populations worldwide.

Besides living in remote and often harsh environments, their voices are rarely heard, their knowledge and experience seldom acknowledged, and their needs barely addressed in broader national development strategies. Mountains are often centres of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity and have historically been places of refuge.

Communities in mountain areas have traditionally had high adaptive capacity as a result of their close contact with and intimate knowledge of the environment; these processes and practices are often found in their traditional and indigenous knowledge. However, the richness and diversity of cultures that are found in mountain areas are at risk from rapid social and cultural change.

Focus areas within this theme:

  • Culturally and contextually responsive education
  • Culture, heritage and language
  • Gender, vulnerabilities, resilience and sustainability

For more information contact:
Dr Dipane Hlalele
E: hlaleledj@ufs.ac.za

Research projects

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