Regional Sustainability

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Mpumalanga Lowveld, South Africa


New Dates TBC



Application Deadline

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Governance, Migration, Transport, Land Rights, Water Management, Gender, Agriculture, Development, Education

This program explores the concepts of regional development and sustainability in the lowveld region of Mpumalanga, and examines the issues and constraints of translating such concepts into policy and practice. It focuses on topics such as soil and water management, land rights, gender, health, migration, education and the environment.

The study trip begins from the metropolis of Johannesburg, Africa’s world city and South Africa’s business capital. You will learn about its vibrancy and influence on towns and rural settlements in neighbouring provinces and countries.

Your group will proceed to Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga province, where you will be based for the rest of the study program. You will learn from local experts, academics, government officials, community groups and organisations and people about their work, experiences, and their knowledge of the region. You will:

  • Discuss the challenges of land reform in post-apartheid South Africa with government planners and rural action groups
  • Learn through discussions with catchment officials and farmers about water resource issues in the lowveld and how they impact farmers and environmental rehabilitation efforts
  • See a rural project focused on community-based medicinal plant cultivation; discuss the challenges of such work with traditional healers
  • Visit projects initiated by local communities in conjunction with conservation authorities in an area of immense natural beauty and biodiversity
  • Discuss with rural school teachers about the immense challenges they face in trying to provide poor rural children with a basic education.
  • Listen to male and female representatives from a poor ex-homeland community discuss their hopes and frustrations with government post-apartheid land reform policies
  • Visit sugar plantations and smallholder sugarcane farmers about the challenges they face in producing sugar for local and foreign markets
  • Talk with community health workers involved in AIDs education and domestic violence programs
  • Listen to provincial and municipal government officials involved with integrated development planning and promotion of economic growth, small and medium enterprises, and employment training programs
  • Make a daytrip along the Maputo Development Corridor from Nelspruit to Maputo (Mozambique) to learn about the economic impacts of the corridor on the region
  • Understand the impacts of the South Africa – Mozambique border on agriculture and labour

During the last two days of the field trip, you’ll discuss what you have observed and learned from visiting different places and talking to local communities, academics and stakeholders about regional sustainability.

You’ll work with others in your group to think through these issues and present back to these people some concepts for actionable programs or projects for the region. Based on their comments and advice, you will rework your ideas into group research and project proposals after you return from the field.

Your final work will be published by RESEED as an edited book and presented back to the community-based organisations, local representatives, government agency officials, NGOs, and academics.

During the middle of the program, you’ll have the option of going on a weekend safari to the Kruger National Park. The cost of this safari is not included in the program fees.

Having studied international development and sustainability throughout my degree, having the chance to go and observe these issues first hand brought a whole new depth and level of complexity to my understanding of development in practice. I don't think there is any substitute for going and seeing things for yourself, and the commentary, guidance and analysis that we received as we travelled from the various staff members on the trip gave an invaluable insight into the region that we visited. The trip left me wanting to learn so much more about South Africa and African development in general…

Courtney Yam, 2013 Alumna

Program costs cover:
All local transfers, entry fees, accommodation, meals and printing off of research book,

Program costs do not cover:
Your university tuition fees, travel insurance, flights and/or travel before or after the trip.

Places available on trip:
20 positions

Postgraduate Students, 3rd year undergraduate students.

Free Time:
Optional safari to Kruger National Park for 2 days and 1 night at additional cost


This program consists of a three-week intensive-learning field trip with some pre-departure information sessions, seminars and preparation and post-fieldtrip assessments. It is designed to develop and expand your capabilities to understand the concepts of regional development and sustainability and translate these into policies and actionable projects.

All instruction and discussion will be conducted in English.

Study credit
To undertake this program for study credit, you will need to apply through an accrediting university. Please call us or send an enquiry form to ask for more details about this process.

The subjects are each worth 25 credit points. This represents one quarter (25%) of your full-time study load for a year. So, for example, if you are at a university where the academic year comprises two semesters of full-time study, this program would be equivalent to half the study credit points that you would be required to undertake during one semester.

Time commitment
Your total time commitment to the program is 340 hours. You’ll attend pre-departure information seminars and spend some time going over reading materials in preparation for your fieldtrip. During the days in the field, you’ll be spending between 5 to 8 contact hours each day with your academic coordinators (about 120 hours). In addition, you’ll keep a journal, do group work and individual research during your time in the field and afterwards to finish your assessments.
When we say intensive field learning, we really mean it! 

What you will gain from the program

  • Knowledge of different social dimensions and biophysical resource problems associated with sustainability
  • Familiarity with social, economic and environmental transformation occurring in the national and regional context of the study location
  • Practical skills and field-based experience for empirical research and policy formulation for creating sustainable communities and environments
  • Ability to do effective group-work
  • Ability to collaborate with local community organisations to identify problems and develop realistic solutions through mutual learning
  • Ability to individually design and develop proposals for actionable projects or further research to resolve problems identified conjointly with local communities
  • Capacity to pursue professional careers in urban planning and design, regional and international development, environmental science consulting and management, community-based conservation and sustainable enterprise creation. 

Types of Assessments
You will be required to complete different types of assessment tasks during and after the field component of the program.

Before you go into the field, you’ll be offered four or five topics that can be compared across Australia and South Africa. You’ll form a small team and choose one of these topics to research in the Australian context and put together a simple poster in electronic form. During the field trip, your team will make a short presentation of the poster to South African colleagues and program fellows. 

While you are in the field, you’ll be keeping a journal of your thoughts and reflections of the activities and discussions for each day. You’ll submit a shorter version of these daily accounts and reflections after you return from the fieldtrip.

You’ll be doing a lot of group work on the last two days of the field trip, figuring out what you saw, how to map out what you learned from different viewpoints, analyse these and identify issues that can be the focus of an actionable project. You will present these to your fellow field trip members, South African colleagues and community stakeholders, and receive feedback from them. This will be assessed by the coordinators with input from their South African counterparts 

After the field trip is over, you’ll work with the team that you’ve formed from the field workshop and develop a project proposal based on your field-based learning and desktop research. You’ll each be responsible for doing a section of the required work and for putting it together as a whole project document. You’ll be assessed on your individual contributions and also as a group for the quality, coherence and feasibility of the whole project.

Here’s a summary of all your assessment tasks.

Type of Assessment (Including Extent/Duration) Timing of Assessment Assessment %
1. A group poster presentation – 10 minutes During the fieldtrip 10%
2. A group oral presentation on the
last day of the fieldtrip – 20 minutes
During the fieldtrip 20%
3. A daily field journal – 3000 words After the fieldtrip, (usually 3-4 weeks later).

4. A post-fieldtrip project proposal
of 5000 words
After the fieldtrip, (usually a month after
you’ve submitted your field journal)



How you’ll receive your grades
After the program coordinators have assessed all your work, they will submit the grades and marks to the accrediting university. The University will check and process the grades and include these in your study records towards your degree.