Enhancing integrated coastal management decision making in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa through knowledge transfer and information sharing.
Goble, Bronwyn Jane.
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Coastal environments are complex systems being sought-after for a myriad of environmental, socioeconomic and cultural activities, supporting an estimated 44% of the world’s population. The demand for coastal space and resources has created extreme pressure in coastal areas, leading to reduced coastal functionality and amplified risk of natural hazards. These stresses and changes require proactive management, in particular through policies and legislation that ensure protection and longterm sustainability, thus the emergence of Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) as a ‘holistic’ approach. South Africa, being a country of high marine and coastal biodiversity, recognised the need for better coastal management in the 1970s; however, it was only in 2009 that an Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICM Act) was promulgated. The Act attempts to tackle the interlinked problems of coastal development and conservation; however to date implementation has been frustratingly slow, with capacity constraints and knowledge gaps being the primary limitations. If ICM is to be effective, coastal managers require a broad range of scientific and social information, modelled data and environmental indicators, meaning that the scope and complexity of coastal management is strongly dependent upon capacity. However, in South Africa, these functions do not rest with such experts, but are assigned to various government departments at the local municipality level. Thus ICM initiatives, that integrate natural and social sciences and empower managers with best available knowledge, are required. This research focused on the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, one of four coastal provinces in South Africa grappling with ICM implementation. Consequently, the KZN provincial government committed financial resources to improving knowledge transfer, information sharing and capacity building. KZN-specific barriers to ICM implementation were identified through a series of interviews and surveys, from which requirements for an information support tool were determined. The tool, devised from a coastal management perspective, enables continued knowledge acquisition and retention, thereby acting as an ‘institutional knowledge bank’. Development followed a participatory approach that ensured the needs of target users were met, however while such tools can improve understanding and lead to improved decision-making, their effectiveness depends on continued use by managers. Additionally, this research shows the value-add of such a tool in conjunction with traditional capacity building sessions and how these complementary approaches assisted ICM implementation. Lessons learned from KZN can be up-scaled to inform Government on the value of the information support tool by incorporating national data and information sharing for ICM capacity building.