Current Projects

Weight of cities: Resource requirements of future urbanisation

Client: International Resource Panel

Scope: Cities around the world

This project looks at the resource requirements of projected urbanisation to 2050, and consists of the following components: (1) an estimation of the amounts of various resources required to accommodate the urban resource growth anticipated in the next 35 years, (2) Life Cycle Assessments of alternative/sustainable technologies and systems to estimate how they could reduce this overall resource impact, (3) an assessment of how urban morphology can reduce resource requirements, (4) case studies of cities pursuing integrated infrastructure planning to optimise resource use, and (5) the governance configurations required to achieve urban transitions toward more sustainable resource use.

Dates: 2014 - 2018

SI Team: Professor Mark Swilling, Blake Robinson, Josephine Musango, Paul Currie

Partners: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, University of California (Santa Barbara), University of Minnesota, Urban Morphology Institute

Food for Us: Developing a mobile phone application to reduce food losses and waste

Client: Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University

Scope: South Africa (greater Cape Town and rural Eastern Cape)

The SI is contributing specialist food systems research expertise to this consortium, funded through the 10YFP Trust Fund established by UNEP. The aim of the project is to develop and trial a mobile phone application in South Africa that contributes towards the alleviation of food insecurity and aids access to nutritious food in a country where significant food loss occurs on-farm. The research will add to the limited but growing body of knowledge on social learning, sustainable food systems and food loss and waste in South Africa. More information can be found on

Dates: 2017 - present

SI Team: Candice Kelly, Stefanie Swanepoel, Blake Robinson

Partners: PinPoint Sustainability, Feedback (UK), CSV, Carbon Calculated, United Nations’ Environment 10YFP Trust 

Adoption of solar PV solutions in informal settlements: Case studies from South Africa and Ghana

Client: African Development Bank

Scope: Informal settlements in African cities

This project compares two case studies of solar energy implementation in informal settlements: the iShack solar PV project in South Africa, and a solar lamp trial in Ghana. Key learnings from the two cases will be extracted and presented in the form of a journal article, a policy brief and a short video to be shared online.

Dates: 2017 - present

SI Team: Blake Robinson, Kweku Koranteng, Damian Conway

Partners: Slum Dwellers International

Capacity-building in transdisciplinary research skills for food security

Client: Open Society Foundations

Scope: South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania

The overall aim of this project is to promote innovative approaches to research for sustainable food systems.The SI is collaborating with the TsamaHub at the University of Stellenbosch to offer training and support that is building transdisciplinary research capacity among African scholars in the ACCAI network.

Dates: 2014 - present

SI Team: Candice Kelly, Etai Even-Zahav, Luke Metelerkamp

Partners: TsamaHub (Stellenbosch University)

Promoting urban metabolism for resource efficient cities

Client: UNEP’s Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC)

Scope: Cities around the world

This is an ongoing collaboration with UNEP that started with a comprehensive review of the approaches to assessing urban metabolisms and green city indicator sets in 2013. This led to the development of a draft toolkit for urban practitioners in the developing world. In 2013 and 2014, this was further refined in collaboration with city representatives from Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, and UNEP’s partner institutions. The most recent phase of work involved the development of a communications strategy, including an animated video for youtube explaining the concept of urban metabolism.

Dates: 2013 - present

SI Team: Blake Robinson, Josephine Musango, Paul Currie

Partners: IIED, ICLEI

ACCAI network: co-producing knowledge for sustainable food systems in Africa

Client: African Climate Change Adaptation Initiative

Scope: South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania

The African Climate Change Adaptation Initiative aims to improve capacity to produce excellent and relevant research that can improve the sustainability of African food systems in the face of climate change. More information about the network can be found at The SI was asked to represent Stellenbosch University on this network of African universities that includes the universities of Ghana, Mekelle, Dar Es Salaam and Witwatersrand. As part of its role, the SI has supported five Masters' and one PhD student in their research, and provided them with opportunities to meet their contemporaries in the network at various training events held in Stellenbosch, Accra and Dar Es Salaam.

Dates: 2015 - present

SI Team: Candice Kelly, Etai Even-Zahav, Luke Metelerkamp

Partners: Universities of Witwatersrand, Ghana, Mekelle (Ethiopia), Dar Es Salaam