UKZN SARChI Chair Among Research Experts at Congress

Highlights from the recent SRI Congress.

UKZN SARChI Chair Among Research Experts at Congress

National Research Foundation (NRF)/South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Sustainable Local Rural Livelihoods, Professor Betty Mubangizi of the College of Law and Management Studies led and presented at two plenary sessions of the recent global Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress (SRI).

The congress was hosted by the Future Earth Africa Hub and supported by the NRF in collaboration with UKZN. It brought together experts, activists and community leaders to discuss actionable strategies to build resilience and achieve climate justice for those who need it most. It also highlighted the importance of an inclusive approach that integrates the voices and experiences of frontline communities into the global dialogue on climate action.

Mubangizi described it as ‘an essential platform for scholars, policymakers, and practitioners dedicated to fostering sustainable growth and resilience in our communities.’

She presented on the topic Toward Climate Justice for the Most Vulnerable Communities on a panel discussion that included Dr Sean O’Donoghue, Senior Manager in eThekwini Municipality’s Climate Change Department, Professor Adel El-Beltagy, Chair of the International Dryland Development Commission (IDDC) and Professor Coleen Vogel of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Mubangizi also moderated the plenary session themed From Theory to Action: UKZN’s Leadership in Sustainable Research and Innovation where the University’s scholars presented their latest research on the intersection of technology, urban planning, biodiversity, health, and sustainable development.

This session produced insightful discussions on leveraging earth observation and geospatial technologies for sustainable resource management, the implications of spatial planning for the rural-urban divide and the future of work, and innovative strategies to balance biodiversity and urban expansion. It also explored breakthroughs in developing indigenous African medicinal products to enhance health outcomes and advancing water and sanitation solutions in African cities through transdisciplinary research and collaborative approaches.

The panel for this discussion included Professor Colleen Downs, a terrestrial vertebrate biologist with broad multidisciplinary research interests; Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu, an NRF-rated researcher and SARChI Chair for Inclusive Cities; Professor Nceba Gqaleni, Research Professor and Acting Academic Leader in the Discipline of Traditional Medicine; Professor Cathy Sutherland, Associate Professor in the Discipline of Development Studies who works at the interface between social and environmental systems with a focus on sustainable development; and Professor Onisimo Mutanga of Remote Sensing and the SARChI Chair on Land Use Planning and Management.

Mubangizi highlighted that UKZN’s collaboration in such gatherings and the input of its esteemed researchers underscores the University’s commitment to tackling major societal, economic, and environmental challenges. ‘This collaboration not only reaffirms our leadership in research excellence but also demonstrates our pivotal role in driving innovative solutions for a better future.’

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photographs: Albert Hirasen