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South Africa


Putting a price tag on natural water purification

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Nature can help to purify the water we drink. When a forest upstream of a water treatment plant is intact and healthy, the water arriving in the plant can be of  better quality than if the forest has been heavily harvested or clear-felled. Better quality water arriving in the plant, means fewer chemicals needed to clean the water, and the purification costs are therefore lower.


Standardising the valuation of nature’s services

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: A working group of resource economists met in Cape Town this April to agree on the methods they will use in order to contribute to the development of a standardised national accounting system for valuing ecosystem services.


Workshop on the standardising of accounting system for nature’s services

When a country wants to tally up its economic performance, it generally uses ‘gross domestic product’ as its measuring stick. That’s a global standard of accounting, agreed upon according to the United Nations’ ‘systems of national accounting’, which allows all countries of the world to compare apples with apples in their economic reporting. 


‘Time of use’ tariffs in the spotlight

SOUTH AFRICA: Charging a premium for peak-time electricity could be an effective way of getting city consumers to spread their power use more evenly throughout the day, helping the national utility to manage the country’s grid more effectively.


Smart device cuts geyser energy by up to a third

Stellenbosch, South Africa: An experimental geyser control device, which is operated via the internet a smart phone app, has the potential to cut household water heating by up to 30 percent without users noticing a change to their hot water use habits. 


Tracking water use trends in SA’s ‘mother city’

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: In informal settlements and lower income homes in Cape Town, most household water use is for doing laundry. However, in the middle class suburbs, it’s mostly for showering and topping up swimming pools. This finding, from a recent municipal survey in five suburbs across South Africa’s ‘mother city’, underpins an ongoing drive to educate city residents about their water use patterns, in order to urge behaviour change.


Utilities-based funding model is a problem in SA cities

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s bigger cities get a large amount of their revenue from the sale of electricity and water to consumers. And owing to the pricing structure of these services, cities earn more from large-volume users, and use this revenue to cross-subsidise smaller volume users, who often fall in lower income communities.


Sharing the Berg River’s contested waters

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA  The water flowing down the Berg River, towards the Cape West Coast and Saldanha Bay, is the lifeblood of two competing sectors: heavy industry, and agriculture. But as demand for this limited resource grows, how do the water managers decide who gets access to it, when the water in the river is already fully allocated between existing users?


Debunking Africa’s ‘resource curse’

Not all economists buy into the notion of the ‘resource curse’ - namely, that resource-rich countries end up with slower growth and stalled development, in spite of having bankable natural assets. Newly appointed associate professor Mare Sarr argues that principles of transparency, accountability and institutions are more important factors leading to whether countries use or abuse their natural wealth.


Don’t oversell nature’s services in cities, scientist warns

Natural spaces within city limits, such as wetlands or forests, can offer important support to cities in terms of helping to manage waste water, or slow down flood waters. But scientists shouldn’t over-sell certain of these ecosystem services when lobbying for their protection with city managers, because it could lead to greater pressure being put on these already over-pressured systems.


What’s the ‘play’ value of SA’s Kogelberg coast?

The beautiful Kogelberg coastline - a 100 km long stretch of towering mountains and craggy beaches about an hour’s drive east of Cape Town - and its surrounding tourist attractions are estimated to have a ‘recreational value’ of about US$27.2 million (ZAR272 million) annually.


Zimbabwean economist gets UCT professorship

Newly appointed professor Edwin Muchapondwa has travelled a long way since he left his home town of Bindura, near Harare, when he was eight years old. Over three decades later, the conservation and development challenges of rural Zimbabwe remain front and centre for the University of Cape Town (UCT) economist.


Government’s role in promoting tourism

Southern African states need to create the right policy, fight corruption and build infrastructure if they want tourism to thrive in their countries. By doing so, they will allow the economic development potential of the sector to trickle down to communities in a way that encourages inclusive and sustainable growth.


Private ecotourism can drive rural development

When ecotourism lodges employ people from within some remote communities in Southern Africa, they are often giving them their first permanent job. This highlights the importance of these staff being given adequate training as they fill their posts.


EPRU fellow takes top economics PhD award

How will people behave as they’re faced with the challenges of climate change? Will they work together to cut carbon emissions, in the interest of the greater good, or will they act in their own self-interest? And how much of a gamble will people take as they grapple with how to cope with living in a world where extreme weather events become the new ‘normal’?


Award winning dissertation, in brief.

Dr Kerri Brick recently won the prestigious Economic Society of South Africa (ESSA) prize for the best doctoral dissertation submitted in 2014. The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) fellow, based at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics, submitted a thesis based on four papers which explore how people might respond to different aspects of the challenges which climate change presents society.


Rich get richer in Ethiopian forests

Since the Ethiopian government has changed the nature of forestry related property rights in order to allow communities in south-western Ethiopia to harvest timber and other resources in state forests, these communities have benefited from increased income as they now sell timber, wild coffee and honey.


EPRU associate scoops ‘young scientist’ award

It was a spontaneous turn off her intended route through Oxford 17 years ago, and into a side street, that led geographer Gina Ziervogel into the lobby of a building that would become the institutional home where she gained her doctorate, and launched her into a career that recently landed her a top research award here in South Africa.


African tourism: the ‘multiplier’ effect

For every one person employed by certain high-end tourism lodges in southern Africa, seven people benefit from the downstream flow of that income. Meanwhile, staff employed in these sorts of ventures help grow the local economy by spending their wages at community stores where they do their grocery shopping. Or they drive secondary employment through hiring people for child care or to tend their livestock while they work. Or they’re sending their children to school.


Small Kenyan hydro research gets global exposure

The work by Mary Karumba, a doctoral researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Research Policy Unit (EPRU) in South Africa, recently received some international coverage when the Heinrich Boll Foundation (HBF) ran a column on the work she is doing in her home country.


Social experiment with parallel currency

A tattoo artist, a bread maker, a ‘spaza’ shop owner, and a hair stylist - all from the small town of Piketberg, in the wheat- and fruit-farming region about an hour’s drive north-east of Cape Town - have something unusual in common. And it’s all in their wallets.


Wildlife: an income stream for rural Zimbabweans

When poorer rural families in Zimbabwe are able to collect bushmeat, it may allow them to increase their household income through selling the meat within their communities. This means that if policies help support communities’ access to wildlife, these can address poverty and decrease the inequality gap in these areas.


Putting a value to urban green spaces

Cities in sub-Saharan Africa are growing fast, and with that, many are losing their urban green spaces. Placing a value on such urban spaces can motivate policymakers to prioritise conservation or restoration of natural systems which provide important environmental services and contribute to human wellbeing.


Competition Commission takes on SA fishing industry

The Competition Commission has urged the South African government to revisit the fishing rights allocation process in a way that will counter what it perceives as entrenched anti-competitive behaviour in the industry. And the approaching end to the current cycle of fishing rights, which closes in 2020, will provide the industry with the ideal opportunity to restructure rights with this in mind.


EfD South Africa's Byela Tibesigwa in Farmer’s Weekly

The newspaper Farmer’s Weekly reported on EfD South Africa research fellow Byela Tibesigwa's research findings on subsistence mixed farming strategy and climate change. Dr Tibesigwa's research work entitled “The impact of climate change on net revenue and food adequacy of subsistence farming households in South Africa” was co-authored with Professor Martine Visser and Dr Jane Turpie.


New book on Forest Tenure Reform in Asia and Africa

"This very readable book on Forest Tenure Reform in Asia and Africa looks at different countries’ strategies to use tenure innovations to manage forest resources. An especially interesting contribution is the comparison of China’s privatization of forest rights to the community-based forestry management approach in other developing countries," says Peter Berck, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy, S.J. Hall Professor of Forestry, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


Measuring the value of SA’s sharks

The value of shark tourism and similar ‘non-consumptive’ uses of sharks has long been used to build a case for conservation-based management of this marine resource. And yet the figures used to compare the economic worth of these industries with the fishing of sharks, is a potentially misleading apples-and-oranges comparison, argues resource economist Chris Bova.


Academics can support floundering South African fisheries department

South Africa’s marine fisheries’ contribution to the country’s GDP is relatively small, but the economic implications of how these marine resources are managed has far-reaching effects for small communities who are dependent on access to the sea for their livelihoods. And yet government management of fisheries over the past two years has been woefully inadequate, according to a Cape Town economist and fisheries specialist.


The future of electric cars in South Africa

Electric cars, and plug-in hybrids, could account for as much as 20% of the new car market in South Africa by 2030. But the uniqueness of the domestic car manufacturing industry, the sprawling nature of the country’s cities, and policy uncertainty remain key stumbling blocks to this sector taking off.


Pros and cons of economic benefits for Ethiopian forest communities

Forest-dwelling communities in south-western Ethiopia, who have been organised into community cooperatives and allowed to harvest wild coffee, honey and other forest products, have benefited from the regular income which this new marketing model brings them. But the security that comes with this predictable income means they aren’t saving for a rainy day.


What makes small hydro in Kenya work?

When some remote communities in Kenya can’t access the national grid, they build their own  small scale hydro power projects to meet basic household electricity needs. But if people don’t work together to share the small amount of electricity such a scheme generates, the mini-grid collapses, plunging everyone into the dark.


EPRU researcher heads to France on study exchange

PhD candidate and researcher Jackson Otieno, associated with the University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) Environmental Research Policy Unit (EPRU) in South Africa, jets off to France early in October to join the Toulouse School of Economics for three months of training, before embarking on his doctoral field work in 2015.


Kenyan forest conservation in focus

Kenya doctoral student Boscow Okumu will return to Cape Town, South Africa, late in October, following a four month study trip to the Nairobi School of Monetary Studies where he has been training alongside researchers from across the continent. This was part of a study elective that focused on environmental economics and econometrics.


Neighbours and nature: how rural southern Africans cope with food shortages

When weather-related shocks harm a rural farming family’s agricultural yields, thus reducing the household’s food supply, people turn to nature or their community as a way of coping. That’s why initiatives designed to help such families cope with climate change should consider strengthening social and natural ‘capital’ for the rural poor in sub-Saharan Africa.


Mixed strategy farming may help beat climate change in SA

Agricultural policy in South Africa should support a mix of crop and livestock farming amongst subsistence farmers in order to make them more resilient to the impact of climate change. This is in contrast with government’s existing approach, which currently tries to urge small farmers to diversify their crops in order to adapt to changes in climate.


South African park fees under spotlight at EfD meeting

In an effort to gauge the appropriate entrance and conservation fees for three southern African nature reserves, researchers associated with the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) in South Africa spent the month of August poring over results from recent surveys conducted in the respective parks.