Healthy Waterways: Connecting communities locally and globally

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Faculty of Education

Abstract

This project stems from a current research project: AHRC Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate: time and place in cultural learning about the environment. It takes what we have learnt about children's relationships with their dwelling places and how intercultural interchange influences that as a starting point for facilitating an ongoing pilot project in South Africa namely the Aller River Pilot Project (ARPP).
The goal of the ARPP is to engage local communities in the rehabilitation of a local waterway that is crucial to the livelihoods of these communities. The project's main strategy for delivering this rehabilitation and sustained maintenance is to recruit, train and stipend a group of young people from communities along the river (the 'Eco Champs'). These young people will lead the rehabilitation through engaging the local community and the schools in the local community.
Our input (PUCC FOF) will begin at the end of the first phase of the ARPP when the main rehabilitation work of the river will already have been completed. We will continue the work with the Eco Champ team and the eco clubs that they will have set up in schools in the community. We will use our method of child-led walking interviews to develop a cartogram of the communities and to identify what sorts of relationships the children in these urban settings along waterways have with their dwelling places. We will use this as the basis for the interchange element of our project. The interchange partner in the UK will be a group of young people in the Norfolk Broads called the Youth Rangers who will be working with the Broads Authority (BA) to reconnect with their local waterways. The participant-led walking interviews alongside a stakeholder consultation conference will be used to identify small scale infrastructure support to facilitate the sustainability of the rehabilitation work.
The projected outcome of this project for the community in South Africa will be an explicit and consolidated sense of personal connection to dwelling places including local waterways and an enhancement of commitment to maintaining these in a state that will contribute to the health and wellbeing of the local communities that rely on it for sanitation. Similar (if less extensive) outcomes are projected for the Youth Rangers in the Norfolk Broads.
We will measure our impact through the data gathered during the walks that will be completed at the beginning and the end of the project and we will also use the data gathered by the ARPP and BA to elaborate our understanding of how our intervention has impacted on the local community.
Our work has the potential to contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), Goal 10 (reduced Inequality), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). Examples of how this will be achieved are the improvement in health and sanitation and through the stronger social cohesion, enhanced commitment to community responsibility, effective local agency and a deepened sense of an explicit connection to place. This project will instigate collaboration between people in similar circumstances with regard to the role of water in their dwelling places. The partnerships created will have significant potential for the way in which locally affected communities respond to globally determined consequences of changing climates, in both the meteorological and socio-political sense. Moreover, this project extends the interdisciplinary collaboration between Education and Social Anthropology which will further the aims of the network for the Living with Environmental Change Initiative.
Whilst this is not intended to be a research project we will be able to use the impacts of the project to elaborate our understanding of the relationships that children have with place and how global interchange affects that.

Planned Impact

This proposal stems from incidental connections made during the course of the AHRC Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate project. Through it we seek funding for a project which takes some of what we have learnt about children's relationship to place to make it useful in the context of a non-academic setting. We aim to do this through partnering with two organisations (eThekweni Conservancies Forum in South Africa and the Broads Authority in the United Kingdom) who are implementing the first stages of projects designed to reconnect young people to waterways in their local communities. The projected outcomes of these projects vary according to their contexts. The so-called 'Eco Champs' project in Durban in South Africa has both tangible, structural goals about river rehabilitation and improved sanitation as well as aims about community engagement, social cohesion and improvements in the lifestyles and employment prospects of the participants. The so-called 'Youth Rangers' project in the Norfolk Broads focuses more specifically on the social goals of reconnection with waterways in dwelling places and the entailed improvements in community engagement, social cohesion, improvements in the lifestyle and employment prospects of the participants.
What our engagement with these projects will do is strengthen, consolidate and enhance each of these different goals. We will do this by bringing new methods adapted from the Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate project (PUCC) to the Eco Champs and Youth Rangers projects. We will use our participant-led walking interviews to gather baseline data in each region that will both produce a cartogram of the dwelling places from the perspective of the participants and provide the basis for the intercultural interchanges and small scale infrastructure support that will follow.
We will then initiate interchange between Youth Rangers and Eco Champs using three separate web conferencing events. The content of these events will be determined by the participants but the interchange will be framed by the common purposes of reconnecting with local waterways.
During this period we will also organise a local stakeholder event to determine what sorts of small scale infrastructure support would be useful for improving sanitation. We aim to have this infrastructure in place before the end of the project.
The knowledge we will bring to bear on this project is about the strength of young people's relationships with place and how they articulate this. We have found that walking and talking with children in the context of their dwelling places enables and empowers them to articulate their relationships with place. This sense of empowerment enhances that relationship which is likely to have a concomitant impact on the way they care for and take responsibility for their dwelling places. These outcomes are enhanced by communicating them across cultures to individuals in similar circumstances in different places. In PUCC FOF we aim to take these connected impacts and make them concrete through using them to enhance and influence the work of our partners in non-academic settings.
What we propose here has implications for a number of the Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Case for Support. These are: Goal 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), Goal 10 (Reduced Inequality), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). For example, the maintenance of the rehabilitation work on Aller River in South Africa will contribute to Goal 6 about clean water whilst the infrastructure support will improve sanitation in the communities. The setting up of the interchange will generate a partnership (Goal 17) between two non-academic organisations. It is also interdisciplinary and initiates a partnership between non-academic and academic institutions; thus contributing to the achievement of Goal 17.

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