Cape Town launches drought learning initiative

 Vines that were once part of Zeekoekraal, a farm in Villiersdorp, Western Cape. The drought in the province is set to hamper the export-based wine industry. Picture: Supplied

Vines that were once part of Zeekoekraal, a farm in Villiersdorp, Western Cape. The drought in the province is set to hamper the export-based wine industry. Picture: Supplied

The initiative, created by academics and researchers, aims to learn from Day Zero and prevent a repetition at all costs.

Just under a year ago, the city of Cape Town narrowly missed a debilitating water crisis. And although Day Zero was narrowly averted, the thought of having no water has spurred on an initiative to learn from the drought, and how drought conditions can be better managed, or even avoided completely.

The initiative is called Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative (CTDRLI) and Film Library, a joint undertaking involving the African Climate and Development Initiative, Peter Willis of Conversations that Count, and Victor van Aswagen of CineSouth Studios. Sponsors include Nedbank, Woolworths, Arup, Old Mutual, Aurecon, PwC, and 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

CDTRLI seeks to document and capture significant lessons learnt from the water shortage that came close to being catastrophic.

ALSO READ: Everything you need to know about ‘Day Zero’ right here

“The complexity of the response to this crisis was striking,” explained Willis. “The city as a whole responded in a lot of really intelligent ways, but often with limited awareness of how the rest of the system was responding.

“In the end, what we collectively achieved was remarkable, and many around the world see it as such. Since the story of what actually happened is tremendously rich and vivid, we wanted to make sure some of these perspectives were preserved, allowing us all to learn from what happened.”

CTDRLI’s film library is phase one of the initiative. The library can be accessed for free online, and aims to feature high-quality, in-depth interviews with significant societal actors who were involved in the drought response.

“With this initiative, we are applying the tools of filmmaking to document the lessons learned by key individuals involved in the drought response, explained Van Aswagen.

“We then apply analytical and intellectual tools to this substantial volume of material, amounting to close to fifty hours of footage, to distil the essential learnings that came out of the crisis. These lessons are not limited to water, but relate to urban resilience shocks and stresses broadly, and are applicable to cities around the world.”

Academics are viewing the CTDRLI and Film Library as an exemplar of a trans-disciplinary approach to integrate researchers and societal actors to understand and help solve complex problems.

The initiative will also serve as an integral example for Cape Town and other drought-stricken cities to build a water-resilient future, while actively engaging residents and role-players to practice a sustainable and water-wise lifestyle.

Phase two of the initiative will see a synthesis of lessons learnt from the Film Library’s material in the form of a series of workshops. Lessons and information will be shared and discussed at the workshops, to build a broader sense of understanding and resilience.

Phase three will come in the form of a feature-length documentary titled Day Zero.

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