Key features

The participants in the Arid Areas Programme are actively involved in the establishment of the Karoo Development Foundation.

The approach taken in the overarching Arid Areas Research Programme has several important dimensions.

  • It is totally interdisciplinary, including economics, sociology, politics, demographics, urban planning, and agriculture. The natural sciences are included where they have some.
  • It is relevant to a variety of governmental sectors, including Rural Development, Health, Education, Social Development, Local Economic Development, Transport, Housing, Infrastructure, Tourism, and Environmental Management. It includes national, provincial and municipal levels.
  • The programme creates a space for academic research and unpublished consultancy work (“grey research”) to interact. This is a very new approach in South Africa, where academic journals have tended to maintain their own rigorous academic standards, and “grey research” has remained marginalised and inaccessible. Because development studies is such a practical subject area, it is imperative that much more co-operation between academics and “practitioners” (whether officials, consultants or NGOs) is actively encouraged.
  • The Arid Areas Programme is implemented in active partnership with the National Research Foundation (NRF). The NRF sponsored an Arid Areas Niche Research Area, which was  based at the Centre for Development Support (CDS), at the University of the Free State. The NRF funding was used for post-graduate student support, including disbursements for research activities. It lasted from 2007 to 2010.
  • The NRF is also co-sponsoring the second Karoo Development Conference in Beaufort West on 14-17 October 2012.
  • The programme actively promotes the dissemination of information, by means of a website, as well as focus groups and workshops.. The programme is be strongly linked to the newly established Journal for Development Support (JDS), based at the Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State. To obtain copies of the JDS, or to publish in the JDS, contact Dr Mark Ingle at
  • The programme has an active capacity-building component. Because there is no university located within the study area, it will be critically important to “grow our own timber”. We actively support post-graduate research in the Karoo.  Annual bursaries are made available by the Cluster on Sustainable Development at the University of the Free State (see, or, or contact Ms Anita Harmse on
  • The programme promotes international exchanges on development policies in arid areas. The programme has established a research agreement with the Australian Co-operative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation (CRC-REP) (  The Arid Areas Programme sent two researchers to attend the Desert Knowledge Conference in Alice Springs, Australia, in November 2006, and eight researchers attended the Desert Knowledge Conference in Alice Springs in November 2008.
  • University of the Free State students also research important topics in Namibia.