Socio-economic Benefits of Ecological Infrastructure

Start date
July 1, 2018
End date
June 30, 2020
Project code
Total grant
Contact person
Niels Fold

The overall objective is to develop an evidence-based integrated framework and prototype “investment case” for strengthening water-related Ecological Infrastructure (EI). The project will generate new knowledge by combining livelihoods and value chain analysis with the EI approach to water management and next-generation hydroclimatic modelling at optimum spatial resolution. The research design is based on an inter- and transdisciplinary approach pursuing integration and scaling up across the Berg-Breede and Greater uMngeni catchments in South Africa. The catchments contain strategic water sources upstream and large cities downstream (Cape Town, Durban) with strong rural-urban linkages. Both catchments have a maximized engineered water supply system with deteriorating water quality and no further options for engineered or built (‘hard’) infrastructure (BI). The project examines three EI intervention sites in each catchment; all sites provide a good representation of existing EI implementation models in terms of partnerships and operational structures.

The combined approach will allow the research team to focus on both means and outcomes which are necessary to 1) develop a more sophisticated conceptualization of the linkages between EI and livelihoods, and 2) investigate how people might benefit from a strengthened and cost-effective water supply system realised through an optimised restoration and rehabilitation of EI with income creating co-benefits. The project particularly supports UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG 6 (“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”) but it also addresses poverty alleviation and livelihood options in catchment communities (SDG 1), and the protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems as well as the halting and reversal of land degradation and biodiversity loss (SDG 15).


First-year report:

The project is on track (in terms of anticipated milestones and outputs) with some WP’s experiencing slight delays and others being ahead of schedule. The delays are primarily due to the challenges in filling one of the postdoc positions (WP3), the required re-selection of research sites in one of the catchment areas (WP3,4), and more time-consuming data collection than anticipated (WP1,4). However, the commitment of team members has ensured that these delays will not affect the successful implementation of the project. Overall, the project has a good scientific momentum and a strong team spirit that is promising for a satisfactory completion.