This new Doctoral Programme is offered by Stellenbosch University (SU) in partnership with its strategic partners the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Sustainability Institute (SI). This transdisciplinary PhD Programme has emerged in response to the global challenge of sustainability and the need for knowledge of complex inter-related social-ecological systems. In order to understand and be able to respond to such a challenge, we need new ways of knowing and producing knowledge that will make it possible to develop an integrated understanding of such systems. Complex global sustainability challenges relating, for example, to poverty, energy, water, waste, food security, biodiversity, urbanization, conflict, gender, values and identity cannot be understood and addressed using mono-disciplinary approaches. Sustainability is a transdisciplinary challenge. Engaging with this challenge, the Doctoral Programme provides participants with a unique experience of learning beyond disciplinary boundaries.
In the light of the extreme poverty prevailing in sub-Saharan Africa, the region is unlikely to reach the target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty by the end of 2015. The level of vulnerability of its inhabitants to food insecurity has increased, due to the degradation of the natural environment Climate change poses a serious medium- and long-term threat to ecosystems in southern Africa. Increases in temperature will lead, not only to the greater frequency of extreme events, but also to the depletion of the region’s biodiversity and the shrinkage of its already scarce water resources. South Africa experiences many of the problems that beset the sub-region and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Such problems are exacerbated by the very large number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the region.
The complex social-ecological systems problems responsible for Africa’s sustainability challenges behave in a non-linear and unpredictable manner, which can affect a diverse range of stakeholders and interest groups in different ways. Therefore, addressing sustainability problems is normally a highly contested process. In this context, the PhD Programme encourages participatory multi-stakeholder research that is aimed at gaining an integrated understanding of both the material and non-material determinants underlying Africa's sustainability challenges.
For a more detailied view of Africa's sustainability challenges, please download this important document: