Supporting civil society to be proactive and resilient

Many of the effects of climate change and resource depletion are experienced directly by civil society and we have identified the need for ongoing support to the civil society sector within the catchment to move towards proactive interventions for climate change. The aim is to strengthen and mobilise this sector in the Olifants Catchment by building resilience through training, communication and supportive, enabling networking.

Through the Civil Society Organisation Support initiative we aim to contribute to transforming a core of CSOs to be proactive and resilient in the face of climate change, resource degradation and growing livelihood insecurity.

In 2017 we initiated the CSO Indabas Programme. The Indabas have become important platforms for stakeholders to seek localised solutions and responses to challenges such as climate change and collectively experienced natural resource management problems.

Changing Practice course graduation in Johannesburg, 7 August 2018
Changing Practice course graduation in Johannesburg, 7 August 2018

The Changing Practice course for CSOs came to a close in September 2018. This sub-grant to the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) supported 17 activists from seven CSOs spread across the catchment in an in-depth transformative learning process. Participants developed their skills of inquiry, research, analysis, communication and critical reflection, as well as emotional skills such as confidence, discernment, compassion, empathy and solidarity. Through understanding the impacts of local practices on the health and resilience of the Olifants Catchment, they were able to critically reflect on their own practice as civil society organisations. They also strengthened their own networks for knowledge and support. Achievements included:

  • Graduation of 17 (11 female) participants with NQF Level 4 certificates accredited by Rhodes University, and certificates of attendance for a further two participants.
  • Active and creative engagement with the seven ‘change projects’ developed through the course, on issues ranging from pollution of water sources to corporate compliance with environmental legislation, to empowering communities through food gardens. These projects all led to better relationships with communities and other stakeholders. One project catalysed a growing women’s movement in the middle catchment.
  • A successful partners’ meeting in August which showcased the important work being done by community-based activists to monitor and challenge environmental injustices. This led to several valuable ideas for taking the work forward.
  • Publication of seven case study booklets and seven knowledge network booklets by participants, many of whom were first-time authors. These resources can be used to take their cases forward.
  • Four of the case studies informed the IWRM Module 3 training in September 2018, indicating the integration across RESILIM-O projects.

An important insight from this project is that professional networks and organisations, universities and government agencies also need capacity development – to learn to work with civil society activists in solidarity and collaboration, rather than simply offering pre-made solutions or training.