Arid Areas Research Programme

The programme focuses on socio-economic development in the arid areas, the under developed hinterland of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. In South Africa, the Karoo straddles four provinces: the Western Cape, the Northern Cape, the Eastern Cape, and the Free State. In Botswana, it includes the Kalahari, and in Namibia, the Namib Desert.

Since the 1870s, economic modernization has largely passed these areas by. The structure of small towns and extensive sheep- and goat-farming still bears the imprint of the mid-19th Century. But these areas now face major development challenges, including rapid urbanisation, east-west migration from more populous region into the Karoo,the restructuring of agriculture, the changing profile and function of towns, and new solar projects and astronomy research stations.

The Arid Areas Research Programme focuses on the social sciences, but actively seeks to promote linkages with natural scientists. This must be seen in the context of possible global warming on arid areas – which are likely to become even more arid – and therefore on livelihoods and poverty.

The Arid Areas Research Programme is housed at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein, but we have extensive partnerships with researchers in other South African institutions. Other partnerships are constantly being sought. Please contact Prof Doreen Atkinson at if you would like to become involved in our work.