A Review of International Arid Areas Research Agencies


Atkinson, D (2009b), A Review of International Arid Areas Research Agencies:
The Implications for investment in the Karoo, Kalahari and Namaqualand, Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Council (ECSECC), East London.


Executive Summary

South African arid areas have not received much attention for the purposes of socioeconomic development. The broader issues of regional development in arid areas, small town development, tourism, and niche agricultural products have not been systematically researched in South Africa, although there are some specific studies to draw on.

This paper highlights the intellectual effort which is undertaken in other arid areas of the world, notably in the English-speaking countries (Australia, the USA, Namibia and India). At the same time, deserts and drylands are attracting increasing international attention, from the point of view of conservation as well as development.

The neglect of the Karoo, Kalahari and Namaqualand arises from a variety of causes. Firstly, in terms of the National Spatial Development Perspective (NSDP), the arid areas have not been identified as an area of economic potential. Secondly, the arid areas straddle at least four provinces, which has complicated planning efforts. Thirdly, in all four provinces, intellectual development effort has thus far been directed at the wetter regions, such as the Boland, the ex-homeland areas of the Eastern Cape, and the Bloemfontein and Eastern Free State regions. The fact that the Northern Cape, which contains the lion’s share of the arid areas, does not have its own university, means that there is no intellectual driver to pursue topics of specific relevance to arid areas.

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