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The use of and obstacles to social learning in climate change adaptation initiatives in South Africa

Shakespear Mudombi, Christo Fabricius, Verena van Zyl-Bulitta, Anthony Patt

Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies; Vol 9, No 1 (2017), 8 pages. doi: 10.4102/jamba.v9i1.292

Submitted: 14 January 2016
Published:  28 March 2017


Global environmental change will have major impacts on ecosystems and human livelihoods while challenging the adaptive capacity of individuals and communities. Social learning, an ongoing adaptive process of knowledge generation, reflection and synthesis, may enhance people’s awareness about climate change and its impacts, with positive outcomes for their adaptive capacity. The objectives of this study were to assess the prevalence of factors promoting social learning in climate change adaptation initiatives in South Africa. An online survey was used to obtain the views of decision makers in government and non-governmental organisations about the presence of personal factors and organisational factors that promote social learning. Descriptive analysis was used to assess these issues. The findings provide some evidence of social learning in climate change adaptation projects in South Africa, with the majority of respondents indicating that personal social learning indicators were present. Mechanisms for improved conflict resolution were, however, less prevalent. The organisational and governance-related barriers to implementation also presented significant challenges. Some of the main organisational barriers were short timeframes for implementing projects, inadequate financial resources, political interference, shortcomings in governance systems and lack of knowledge and expertise in organisations. There is a need for organisations to promote social learning by ensuring that their organisational environment and governance structures are conducive for their employees to embrace social learning. This will help contribute to the overall success of climate change adaptation initiatives.

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Author affiliations

Shakespear Mudombi, Faculty of Management Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Christo Fabricius, Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, George Campus, South Africa
Verena van Zyl-Bulitta, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Leipzig, Germany
Anthony Patt, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland


adaptation; climate change; social learning; South Africa


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ISSN: 1996-1421 (print) | ISSN: 2072-845X (online)

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