Building resilience to climate change in at-risk communities is a pivotal element of research at University of Southern Queensland.
Tanya Dobson is one researcher taking on this challenge through her PhD, helping to record and preserve undocumented knowledge of climate management among small-scale and micro farmers in rural South Africa.
Ms Dobson’s work on the ground in the region of KwaZulu-Natal seeks to understand how some of the most vulnerable farmers in the world are responding to climate change.
“The farmers I am working with are some of the most impacted members of the community,” she said.
“Their farms/gardens lack the kind of infrastructure that can control things like temperature, sun exposure and water.”
“This means that any small change in the climate or in weather conditions can have a really big impact on their ability to grow crops successfully.”
“I have spoken to farmers who have had their entire fields flooded suddenly and devastatingly, and then other farmers in a community nearby who are struggling to get enough to water their small garden.”
Ms Dobson’s research will document knowledge and customs of local farmers, attitudes and perceptions towards climate change among those farmers and the changing effectiveness of traditional methods as climate becomes less predictable.
She said Indigenous knowledge and customs that may address or be affected by climate change were often unrecorded, despite their global significance.
This could include previously documented practices such as the continued use of traditional weather-forecasting techniques to predict incoming patterns including the presence of certain bugs or the bloom of specific types of flowers.
“The nature of this knowledge means that much of it has not been captured or recorded in the western, scientific literature,” she said.
“These observations and perspectives are crucially important to include in discussions and interventions to tackle global climate change.”
Ms Dobson is working with the Africa Foundation to facilitate the successful implementation of a Climate Resilient Communities Program in rural KwaZulu-Natal.