20 October 2022 Volume :10 Issue :48

UKZN Academics Present Research Findings at 1st International Conference on Disasters

UKZN Academics Present Research Findings at 1st International Conference on Disasters
Professor Betty C Mubangizi (left) and Dr Londeka Ngubane.

A multidisciplinary team implementing a project on the Interplay Among Vulnerabilities, Livelihoods, and Institutional Dynamics in the Context of COVID-19 recently presented their work at the First Disaster and Risk Management Conference at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The conference took place from 1 to 4 October 2022.

The project team comprised Professor Betty Mubangizi NRF/SARChI Chair on Rural Livelihoods in the School of Management, IT and Governance; Dr Londeka Ngubane from the School of Applied Human Sciences; Dr Andrew Okem from the School of Life Sciences; Dr Jabulani Nyawo from the School of Management, IT and Governance; Dr Sokfa John from the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Mediation in Africa and a former postdoctoral fellow at UKZN; Dr Ibrahima Barry from the University of Nantes in France; and Mr Niyi Adekanla from AIDLINE Research in Nigeria.

The study used Matatiele Local Municipality (MLM) and Winnie Madikizela Mandela Local Municipality (WMMLM) as case studies. The two municipalities have a limited revenue base due to high poverty levels, their innate susceptibility to tornadoes, protracted droughts, land degradation, and high reliance on state grants.

The Sustainable Livelihood Framework underpinned their study. Using surveys and in-depth interviews, the study offered an understanding of the intricacies surrounding the effects of COVID-19 in the two rural municipalities. The municipalities’ ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic was tested because several COVID-19 response mechanisms, such as basic hygiene, communication, and transportation, fall under the purview of these resource-constrained municipalities.

A unique aspect of this study, and one which fits with UKZN’s emphasis on community engagement, was that a portion of the research team was made up of non-academic partners from both municipalities. Mr Momelezi Mbedla, the then mayor of MLM; Mr Luvuyo Mahlaka, WMMM Municipal Manager; and Ms Sissie Matela of Environmental and Rural Solutions comprised the non-academic partners in the study.

The study’s non-academic collaborators were kept updated through routine reports at community gatherings. To further strengthen the community participation strand of this project, the research team trained 25 fieldwork assistants on the fundamentals of research ethics and how to use the KoboToolbox app in surveys. The municipal partners discussed the potential benefits of training fieldworkers for the municipalities’ efforts to collect data for their integrated development plans.

At the conference, Mubangizi and Ngubane spoke on behalf of the research team, unpacking the effects of COVID-19 in rural contexts and the COVID-19 coping strategies used by residents of the two rural municipalities. The research - which anticipates publishing additional papers and policy briefs from the project - has already published a scoping review on Rural Vulnerability and Institutional Dynamics in the Context of COVID-19 in the Journal of Disaster Risk Studies (DOI:10.4102/jamba.v14i1.122).

The research was funded under the Africa Rapid Grant Fund which aims to assist knowledge creation on the expanding variety of scientific topics regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied

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