Completed projects

The full cost of the siltation of dams in South Africa

ASSET Research ( did this study in collaboration with SAEON ( and the Natural Resource Management programme of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA:NRM) (

The siltation of dams is, by and large, the result of soil movement in the upper reaches of the catchment. The degree to which a dam is affected by siltation is influenced by, among others, the dam site, the surrounding geology and land cover, the land use and ensuing land management, and the dam type and size. The consequences, and hence societal costs, of siltation varies from dam to dam pending its location, the degree of siltation, and both the up and downstream economic and ecological activities impacted by the dam and its siltation. While siltation has been studied extensively, the full societal cost thereof has received precariously little attention.

This project provided a thorough analysis of the economic cost of siltation across a number of dam sites in SA (controlling for geography, climate, land use, dam size, dam type, etc.). Determining the economic cost included considering issues such as a loss in yield, carbon deposit, methane emissions, loss in land productivity as a result of the erosion, and the cost due to a lack of natural silt flows into estuaries, etc.

Sustainable farming as a viable option for enhanced food and nutritional security and a sustainable productive resource base

Funder: Green Fund – Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Department of Environment Affairs

The Government of South Africa recognises the vulnerability of a fifth of South African households to food insecurity. The roles of farmers and cooperatives as well as agroprocessing businesses are recognised in addressing food security, job creation and economic development objectives. Policies and programmes are being targeted at accelerating a shift to agro-ecological agriculture (including conservation agriculture) and agriculture which can create large numbers of jobs and a sufficient and stable income for South Africans.

A transition to a green economy in South Africa is also underway, supported by several policies and plans. Integrated sustainable agricultural production is recognised as one of nine focus areas for green economy programmes. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental and ecological scarcities. Greening the Economy with Agriculture (GEA), according to the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), refers to ensuring the right to adequate food, as well as food and nutrition security in terms of food availability, access, stability and utilization and contributing to the quality of rural livelihoods, while efficiently managing natural resources and improving resilience and equity throughout the food supply chain, taking into account countries individual circumstances.

At this stage more research is needed on the parameters under which a green economy is feasible in several sectors, including the agricultural sector. Whilst international research in sustainable agriculture has been on-going for many years, agricultural research in South Africa has barely started to engage with these issues and there is a lack of supporting evidence, both quantitative and qualitative. This is hindering progressive policy development and investment.

Other completed projects

  • The financing mechanisms associated with achieving green drop rating
  • Determining the economic risk/return parameters for developing a market for ecosystem goods and services following the restoration of natural capital: a system dynamics approach
  • Environmental and Resource Economics Training
  • An investigation into the effect of an electricity generation tax on the economy of South Africa (National Treasury, Development Network Africa)
  • In-Field Rainwater Harvesting and Water Conservation Techniques: Assessing the Impact of Ten Years of WRC-funded Research in Thaba Nchu (Water Research Commission)
  • Investigation of the positive and negative consequences associated with the introduction of low-P detergents (Institute of Natural Resources)
  • Develop a generic model to assess the cost associated with eutrophication in South Africa and apply it to the Vaal River (Institute of Natural Resources)

More detailed information will be provided upon request – please send us an email.