An analysis of well-being in Gauteng province using the capability approach
As countries across the globe pursue economic development, the improvement of individual and societal well-being has increasingly become an overarching goal. In the global South, in particular, high levels of poverty, inequality and deteriorating social fabrics remain significant challenges. Programmes and projects for addressing these challenges have had some, but limited, impact.
This occasional paper analyses well-being in Gauteng province from a capability perspective, using a standard ‘capability approach’ consistent with Amartya Sen’s first conceptualisation, which was then operationalised by Martha Nussbaum. Earlier research on poverty and inequality in the Gauteng City-Region was mainly based on objective characteristics of well-being such as income, employment, housing and schooling. Using data from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory’s Quality of Life Survey IV for 2015/16, our capability approach provides a more holistic view of well-being by focusing on both objective and subjective aspects simultaneously.
The results confirm the well-known heterogeneity in human conditions among South African demographic groups, namely that capability achievements vary across race, age, gender, income level and location. However, we observe broader (in both subjective and objective dimensions) levels of deprivation that are otherwise masked in the earlier studies. In light of these findings, the paper recommends that policies are directly targeted towards improving those capability indicators where historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups show marked deprivation. In addition, given the spatial heterogeneities in capability achievements, we recommend localised interventions in capabilities that are lagging in certain areas of the province.
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Linked to project(s):Poverty in the GCR: A capabilities approach
Johannesburg and its epidemics: Can we learn from history?
Covid-19 has massively disrupted life globally and locally, bringing many uncertainties in its wake. It is not, however, the first epidemic to pummel the world or our own country, region and city, raising the question of what we can learn from history. In the case of Johannesburg, epidemics have included: smallpox in 1893; measles in the internment camps of 1901/02; pneumonic plague in 1904; influenza in 1918/19; poliomyelitis in various outbreaks between 1918 and 1957; scarlet fever in outbreaks between 1917 and 1941; and HIV/Aids from the late 1980s. This is in addition to lesser epidemics such as influenza in 1957 and listeriosis in 2018.
History cannot, of course, tell us what will happen with Covid-19; each epidemic has a different epidemiology and has happened in very different temporal contexts with immense variation in terms of population, society, politics, medical knowledge, and more. Nevertheless, there could be some clues from history which may relate to issues of geography, settlement type, mobility, and degrees of immunity or viral resistance within the population. The knowledge drawn from history must, however, be deployed judiciously and in relation to the current science. Even so, there are critical themes cutting across historical episodes that may usefully shape our attention in the current moment. The paper provides an account of the history of Johannesburg’s epidemics, drawing from sources which were available during the Covid-19 lockdown, and suggests six themes to consider in an analysis of history and of current circumstances:
- The idiosyncratic course of epidemics and therefore the need for both close monitoring of developments and high levels of agility in governance response
- The ways in which epidemics are associated with social scapegoating, stigmatising and pathologising, and the need therefore for strong, progressive leadership to counter this;
- The effects of epidemics on the economy, and especially on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable segments of the populations;
- The effects of epidemics on the spatial forms and infrastructures of the city, including through the opportunistic use of epidemics to pursue prior spatial agendas;
- The ways in which epidemics have been governed, with the strengths and drawbacks of the various approaches, including more nationally or more locally centred governance arrangements; and
- The ways in which epidemics have impacted on governance forms into the future, including on institutional forms, legislation and urban policy.
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Linked to project(s):Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Gauteng
Urban agriculture in the Gauteng City-Region’s green infrastructure network
As cities in developing countries contend with the challenges of urbanisation, they need to rethink the traditional modes of urban planning and development. Part of this logic is the need to cater for growing populations without compromising urban environments or social development. A green infrastructure approach can help meet infrastructure and service needs while ensuring the proper functioning of natural ecological systems. As part of the green infrastructure network, urban agriculture can create multifunctional green assets in the form of urban farms and food gardens. When planned accordingly, urban agriculture can contribute to addressing a range of issues in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR).
The aim of this occasional paper is to gain a better understanding of urban agriculture within the green infrastructure network in the City of Johannesburg and to identify the range of ecosystem services that could be delivered when maintaining and investing in these assets. The analysis in this paper adopts a multi-method approach to (1) identify the interlinkages between urban agriculture and social, economic and environmental systems in the City of Johannesburg; (2) validate these critical interlinkages with stakeholder input and ground-level experience of urban agriculture; and (3) visualise these interlinkages through a spatial analysis of food gardens in the City of Johannesburg.
This paper builds the argument that urban agriculture is a multifunctional element of the green infrastructure network in the GCR. It is worth maintaining and investing in food gardens because they contribute to a number of development imperatives in Gauteng. Food gardens may enhance food security by broadening the range of locally produced food sources that improve the potential to help the poor to access fresh food. Productive food gardens may provide economic opportunities, particularly in areas with minimal access to retail outlets and where unemployment is high. Lastly, as a component of a green infrastructure network, food gardens also help strengthen the provision of a range of key ecosystem services. Inter alia they help address climate change and build disaster resilience through flood management and carbon capture.
Of course, urban agriculture will not deal with any of these challenges in their entirety, but within a wider green infrastructure approach, it has the potential to contribute significantly if it can be mainstreamed into municipal development processes. Realising the benefits of green infrastructure hinges on integrating this approach into municipal planning in a way that aims to improve the productivity of ecosystem service delivery. The paper concludes with recommendations for strengthening policy, management, planning and operational support for food gardens in the GCR.
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