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Rhodes University (2012)

An investigation of community learning through participation in integrated water resource management practices

Phiri, Charles M

Titre : An investigation of community learning through participation in integrated water resource management practices

Auteur : Phiri, Charles M

Université de soutenance : Rhodes University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2012

Résumé
South Africa is a semi arid country in which the average rainfall of 450mm/year is well below the world average of about 860mm/year. As a result, South Africa’s water resources are scarce in global terms and limited in extent. Current predictions are that demand will outstrip water availability in the next 15 years. A coordinated approach to improve both water quality and quantity is needed and in order to achieve that, it is crucial to strengthen capacities of local community involvement in identifying the problems that affect them and strategies to solve them. This research was undertaken to develop a deeper understanding of community learning processes in integrated water resources management (IWRM) practices. The study drew on situated and social learning theory which explains that knowledge and skills are learned and embedded in the contexts in which knowledge is obtained and applied in everyday situations. Multiple data collection techniques were used within a case study design and included document analysis, interviews, focus group discussions and field observations. Data analysis was done in three phases and involved uncovering patterns and trends in the data sets. In this context I discovered, through careful observation and interviews with members of the different communities of practice, that people are learning through social learning interactions with other community members as they engage in their daily water management and food production practices. Learning interactions take place through both informal and formal processes such as meetings, training workshops, conversations and interactions with outsiders. I also discovered that people learn from ‘external groups’ or training programmes which bring new knowledge and expertise, but this needs to be contextualised in the local communities of practice. The research has also shown that there are a number of challenges that appear to exist in these learning contexts. For instance it was found that participation and social learning processes and interactions are influenced by a range of causal mechanisms that are contextual. These insights into how communities learn, as well as the tensions and difficulties that are experienced in the learning processes are important for furthering learning and participation in community-based IWRM practices, projects and programmes.

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