Coping with Climate Change: The Role of Local Knowledge in Rural and Peri-Urban Communities in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Amos APRAKU , Department of Sociology, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
Philani MOYO , Department of Sociology, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
Wilson AKPAN , University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
National and continental studies on climate change in Africa mostly measure the extent of climate change and its related impacts. Little attention is paid to how local knowledge helps communities to cope with adverse environmental conditions. Despite the wide-ranging contestations about the role of indigenous knowledge, studies conducted in Mexico and some Asian countries reveal that one of the factors that have increased people’s vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change is the low priority that policy makers and environmental institutions attach to indigenous knowledge, especially in the planning and management of climate change responses. This factor combines with others such as political weaknesses and the use of inappropriate technology. It is against this background that this paper explores climate change-related adaptive mechanisms that are embedded in local cultural (and particularly agricultural) practices in South Africa. The paper reveals the ways in which indigenous plant medicines, water-conserving hedge plants, and specific uses that local people make of indigenous social capital help households to cope with adverse climate change impacts. The paper is based on interview, focus group and community survey data obtained from five rural and peri-urban communities around East London and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. The paper highlights the need to take the local context seriously in dealing global environmental challenges.