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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950

Abstract

JACOBS, IM  and  NIENABER, S. Waters without borders: transboundary water governance and the role of the 'transdisciplinary individual' in Southern Africa. Water SA [online]. 2011, vol.37, n.5, pp. 665-678. ISSN 1816-7950.

Water resources in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) play an intrinsic role in regional development. As a result, water is a highly sensitive issue, complex to understand and demanding to govern, in terms of effective and equitable use and distribution. Growing awareness of the complex challenges facing water and the cross-cutting impacts that these challenges have on the region has led to the recognition that these challenges demand more integrated levels of ingenuity and expertise from a diverse set of actors working in a transdisciplinary manner. In response to these realisations a significant body of work has emerged that attempts to determine the criteria of a transdisciplinary approach and how it can be operationalised. This has led to significant progress in gaining an understanding of 'transdisciplinary team' approaches. These transdisciplinary teams have tended to work at the localised or project level of problem response. However, despite this progress, little work has been done on how to upscale transdisciplinary research and practice to the regional level. This is a significant gap given the fact that the source of many complex problems lies at the regional level even if the effects of these problems are localised. Also, little has been done to try to move the transdisciplinary discourse beyond the transdisciplinary team in order to understand how to groom and develop 'transdisciplinary individuals' who have the competence and talent to rise to the complex challenge of fostering regional economic development, of which water is a key component. Given this context, this paper builds on the existing literature in transdisciplinarity and its different conceptualisations in relation to water in Southern Africa. Firstly, it interrogates the cross-cutting role of water in regional socio-economic development in the SADC region. Secondly, it examines the need for transdisciplinary responses to regional socio-economic development. Thirdly, this paper strives to make a valuable contribution to knowledge in that it attempts to take the transdisciplinary discourse beyond 'the team' model to examine the role of the individual and the internalisation of transdisciplinarity as a mindset beyond collective models. In this regard, the paper emphasises the need for 'transdisciplinary individuals' to rise to the complex challenge of regional integration, and particularly, the role of the younger professionals in this process.

Keywords : transboundary; governance; transdisciplinarity; social science; SADC; complexity; global change; regional development.

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