CRITICAL Food heritage as a tool for adaptation: Climate change resilience through hybrid indigenous knowledge systems in South Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences


The previous CRITICAL project aimed to explore heritage impacts from disasters and climate change in three sites in three Low to Middle Income Countries (LMICs). This project concluded in June 2022 and had identified a range of key findings. These included the lack of heritage inclusion in risk understanding and adaptation planning in some of the world's poorest communities. One of these communities is Elandskloof, a settlement in rural South Africa, living with the trauma of race-based violence and forced removals during apartheid. Working closely with the people of this area the South African research team from the University of Pretoria identified a strong heritage narrative around food and a lost cultural memory that is vital in their struggle against poverty but also in relation to climate change. The University of Edinburgh team identified a climatic shift in the area that coincided with forced removals from their land and their resulting loss of cultural memory. We have an opportunity now to translate these research findings for policy and practical action at a local and national level in South Africa, as well as supporting and extending our collaborative research on climate thresholds for key cultural assets such as food heritage and traditional land management practices. This follow on funding called 'CRITICAL Food' will therefore support three areas. Firstly, the development of a heritage led adaptation toolkit for the people of Elandskloof and new research on climate resilient heritage for food security, as well as the launch of participatory heritage school gardens to engage intergenerational knowledge exchange to recapture some of the lost traditional knowledge of the community. Secondly, the team will work at a regional to national level translating research findings from the original CRITICAL project for a policy relevant brief. In addition to coordinating a participatory risk modelling exercise in South Africa that will bring the local people together with decision makers to raise awareness of their heritage, as well as the vulnerabilities and capacities of the community. This will include a discourse on land use and the influence of a nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site that currently has a detrimental impact to the local people's livelihoods and traditional land use practices. Thirdly, we will connect researchers working on food heritage across the world through shared historical food heritage stories. Here we will create a network between South Africa and the Caribbean sharing lessons learnt and crafting new opportunities between the CRITICAL project and heritage based climate resilience youth engagement projects in the Caribbean. As well as exploring ways of safeguarding heritage knowledge for improved food security under climate change. Fundamentally, this 'CRITICAL Food' project will support research impacts across three scales as well as testing new methods using heritage as a tool for adaptation planning and implementation.


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