Environment and Poverty Project


The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) is a research group which seeks to enhance environmental policy-making in South Africa through rigorous policy research and extension in order to attain sustainable development and poverty reduction. EPRU is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the Environment for Development (EfD) initiative managed by the Environmental Economics Unit at Goteborg University. Operationally, EPRU is hosted by one of the existing research units in the School of Economics, namely the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU). With time, EPRU will stand as a fully fledged research unit in the School of Economics after undergoing a status review by the University Research Committee.


South Africa is a middle income country and characterised by a double-decker economy. Poverty continues to afflict millions of its people, particularly the almost all black population in the lower deck. The link between poverty and the environment has long been recognised. South Africa is home to a wide range of environmental and natural resources, whose continued existence depends on responsible use. Efforts geared towards the sustainable use of environmental and natural resources are expected to contribute greatly towards the eradication of poverty. This is particularly true given that the majority of South Africa’s poor are heavily reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. Ultimately, economic development depends on institutions that can protect and maintain the environment’s carrying capacity and resilience. Consequently, the sustainable use of natural resources could greatly reduce poverty.

As the country strives to forge ahead with economic development, there is a need for policies that are aimed at steering the economy on a sustainable development path. Given that good policy formulation is knowledge intensive, policy makers ought to continuously interact with organisations such as universities and research institutes that are actively engaged in the pursuit of relevant knowledge. These organisations should, for their part, be readily available to advise the policy makers. If the quality of knowledge upon which policy is based is excellent and such knowledge is always readily available then policy-making in South Africa might be enhanced in order to attain sustainable development and poverty reduction. It is believed that there is a gap in the interaction between knowledge organisations and policy makers in the environmental policy arena.

The School of Economics at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa believed that it could put in place permanent arrangements to fill this gap in South Africa. In order to enhance the interaction between academics, policy makers and civil servants in the environmental policy arena, the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) was established in January 2007.


The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU)’s mission is to be a centre of excellence in environmental policy where (i) highly skilled academics and policy practitioners interact in the process of rigorous environmental policy research, (ii) current and future policy makers and practitioners acquire training in latest and rigorous environmental policy making and practice, and (iii) current policy makers and practitioners get professional and well-researched environmental policy advice.

Goals and objectives

The developmental goal of EPRU will be to bring about poverty reduction through sustainable development. EPRU’s immediate goal will be to promote quality and innovation in the teaching, research and advisory services on environmental policy in South Africa. The objectives of EPRU are:

To build capacity in rigorous environmental policy analysis relevant for South Africa through innovation in in-service and postgraduate training programs for the current and future policy makers and technocrats.
To create a forum in which academics, policy makers and civil servants set the research agenda for critical environmental policy issues in South Africa. This is expected to contribute to increased environmental awareness among South African policy makers, better understanding of environmental realities, and more informed environmental policy-making.
To become a South African focal point where a community of environmental researchers will share ideas, comment on each other’s work and collaborate in research projects beneficial to environmental policy makers in a cost effective manner.

The Secretariat

EPRU has a Secretariat composed of a coordinator and research fellows. The Coordinator is the chairperson of the Secretariat and is assisted in executing the EPRU’s daily activities by a Project administrator. The Secretariat sets the broad operational procedures of EPRU. The Secretariat is an entity with joint responsibility of ensuring that EPRU performs its activities.

The Coordinator

Edwin Muchapondwa, School of Economics, University of Cape Town
Research Topics:

  • Community based natural resource management
  • Nature-based tourism and ecosystems
  • Valuation of non-market environmental amenities
  • Applied environmental economics and sustainable development

Research Fellows

To qualify as either an EPRU research fellow or research associate an individual must demonstrate an active interest in pursuing environmental policy relevant teaching and research. The Secretariat will admit researchers as either EPRU research fellows or research associates, where research fellows have permanent membership and research associates have contractual membership. In deciding the admission of an applicant as a research fellow or research associate, the Secretariat shall be guided by the applicant’s relevant environmental research history or potential. The research fellow status shall only be accorded to researchers whose profiles and services will bolster the performance and image of EPRU for extended periods of time.

The current research fellows are:

Research Associates

  • Susan Snyman
  • Reviva Arnoni


Conservation Planning and Adaptive Management; Bioregional Economic Incentives
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens | 22 & 23 October 2008

EPRU Workshop Proceedings

Papers that were presented

Contact us

Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU)
School of Economics
University of Cape Town
Private Bag
Rondebosch 7701
South Africa

Email: edwin.muchapondwa@uct.ac.za