As part of a transdisciplinary anthropology and agricultural sciences research study, Ms Senelisiwe Ndlela investigated community perceptions of an early lightning warning system in Swayimane, UMshwathi.
This study, which is part of a larger investigation under the uMngeni Resilience Project, culminated in Ndlela graduating with a master’s degree in social sciences.
‘Lightning causes extensive damage to people’s livestock as well as accidents, injury to people and damage to infrastructure. This is more devastating to communities where such incidents are common,
therefore, systems similar to the lightning warning system in KwaSwayimane are helpful,’ said Ndlela.
The study gathered insights and views of the local community of KwaSwayimane on the system which was erected in their area because of their vulnerability to lightning and other natural hazards.
Invaluable information was gathered and discussed, including details about indigenous techniques the community uses to protect themselves from lightning strikes.
‘This study lays a foundation for other future studies in the field as it will contribute towards the role of indigenous perceptions on community-based approaches towards the discourse of climate change within anthropology and technological sciences,’ added Ndlela.
This study also uncovered the different techniques that the KwaSwayimane community uses and the impact that the lightning warning system has on the local community. Being able to engage with the community and gain their first-hand experience of the system and its impact towards reducing their vulnerability to lightning strikes was invaluable and will contribute towards producing a feasible programme that will benefit all stakeholders.
Ndlela thanked her family, friends and supervisors Professor Maheshvari Naidu and Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi. ‘Being able to work with supervisors from different colleges and disciplines exposed me to different environments and also allowed me to immerse science into social sciences. The invaluable information and knowledge I gained from the community through data collection opened my eyes as an individual and as an African to the impact of indigenous knowledge in communities.’
Ndlela dedicated her degree to her late grandmother Ms Oswina Nomalungelo and thanked her sister Semkelisiwe, brother Samkelo Ndlela and aunt Sinethemba for their support.
This was her advice for fellow researchers: ‘It is important to surround yourself with a good support system – the support you get from your family and friends will surely see you through to completion of your degree.’