What is SA RILab

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What is SA RILab

The Southern Africa RILab (SA RILab) is one of the four Resilience Innovation Labs under the ResilientAfrica Network.

The ResilientAfrica Network is one of USAID’s Higher Education’s Solutions Network (HESN) Development Labs with Makerere University, Uganda as prime implementer supported by Tulane University, Stanford University and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). SA RILab is hosted by the University of Pretoria School of Health Systems and Public Health with partners at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources and University of Limpopo. The SA RILab has strategically identified focal communities in 3 countries: 

  • Chikhwawa District in Southern Malawi
  • Ga-Dikgale communities in Capricorn District Central Limpopo Province South Africa and
  • Pyramid community north of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Beitbridge Community, Zimbabwe 

Thematic Area of Focus

RAN’s Southern Africa RILab concentrates on the impact of chronic diseases, particularly HIV and AIDS in relation to issues related to improving and/or sustaining access to livelihood assets and understanding the local adaptive strategies to reducing vulnerabilities to loss of livelihood. It is also important to note that in addition to the high burden of people living with HIV/AIDS, communities in Southern Africa face other acute and chronic shocks and stressors with limited resources to respond. These shocks and stressors range from floods, droughts, and diseases such as HIV to the debilitating social impact of chronic poverty. In Southern Africa, the HIV prevalence is above 20% and up to 13% of children below 18yrs have lost a parent to HIV and AIDS. Most communities are dependent on agriculture & live in absolute poverty. Death of working adult males results in increased female-headed households, mostly older adults. HIV thus intensifies vulnerabilities of affected communities. Malawi is also faced with problems relating to climate variability. As an agro-based economy agricultural shocks are an important source of vulnerability for the majority of the households in Malawi. In particular, the heavy dependency on rain-fed subsistence agriculture makes the majority of households vulnerable to erratic rainfall.

The concept of resilience has largely been limited to development disciplines focusing on adaptive capacities of people, communities or systems to 'stress' or 'shocks' (more commonly shocks) such that people recover and thrive as demonstrated by reduced vulnerabilities and improved well-being. These are usually focused on 'acute events' or shocks such as floods and droughts and how people adapt in order to sustain their livelihood (including food security). Southern Africa RILab is however interested in understanding the root causes of adverse effects of HIV and AIDS in the rural communities and developing innovations with these communities to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS and strengthen resilience.