Climate change will render potentially very different trajectories to those experienced today. Nonetheless planning for different scenarios of climate change is notoriously complex and potentially onerous especially for under-capacitated institutions. Earlier work in the Sand River Catchment highlighted that an impact on one element of interest will likely have impacts on many linked elements of the system of interest (see box below), in this case water-related ecosystem services. Thus one cannot work with individual elements as if they exist in a vacuum. Seeing the linkages captures the essence of systemic approaches.

How do we plan for such uncertainty and complexity?

Given this, in 2015 RESILIM-O initiated an innovative approach to support climate change planning and action using a collaborative process. Formally this is based on qualitative systems dynamic modelling. In practice this means working with stakeholders in a collaborative way which supports them to help ‘build a collaborative picture’ of how things are linked in an area of concern, say a degrading river and water supply (a model of the way a the system of interest works) and then exploring how change reverberates through the system (using so-called formal dynamic modelling). This work is now referred to as CoDyM for short and uses a systemic and collaborative social learning approach (link P 1)

When thinking and acting systemically, consider this:

An impact on one ‘variable’ such as sulphate levels for example, will not only impact of water supply but will also impact on many other factors such as fish and human health.

Conceiving of multiple impacts, let alone planning to solve them, is a challenge facing many managers and stakeholders. AWARD seeks to support stakeholders to explore these linked relationships and impacts and to think about strategies and actions to address such complex issues.

With this thinking in mind, AWARD embarked on support for dealing with ‘vexing’ water resources problems using a CoDyM approach. Our intention is to explore, with stakeholders, the changes in multiple and linked water-related ecosystem services under different practices and different future scenarios. During 2015 the approach was tested and refined in the Ga-Selati sub-catchment

Ga-Selati sub-catchment

which was facing increasingly complex challenges related to water quality near Phalaborwa (link summary of Ga-Selati case). A key challenge has been to rethink the more formalised approaches for a developmental context where stakeholders of different backgrounds, resources and capacities need to interact and collaborate.

Working in a developmental context

Our internal evaluation suggests that the process has been well-received by the participants as a way to think about water resources health and ecosystem services under climate change. In particular they were able to consider the influence of their sectoral practices – and all sectoral practices collectively - on the sustainability of a common resource- namely water (see internal evaluation report).

However, we are now paying attention to

  • the resources needed for such an approach, where there is merit in testing simpler approach
  • a more visual, user-friendly interface for use in a developmental context

In 2017 we aim to facilitate cross-sectoral learning and action for joint custodianship of the lower Olifants River Catchment (ORC). Through working with multiple stakeholders, priority has been given to exploring complex water quantity and quality issues which lead to non-compliance with environmental flows in the lower Olifants Catchment. This will involve the OCMA and the KNP amongst others in collaborative work.