Stellenbosch University- Stellenbosch, South Africa

Unit or Programme:
Research Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction (RADAR) - PeriPeri U Secretariat
Integrated Disaster Risk Research Methods
Unit Director:
Dr Nico Elema
Contact details:
Alberto Francioli
+27 21 808 9284
+27 21 808 9401

Stellenbosch University is a place of diverse learning opportunities with ten major faculties over 5 campuses and some 50 research and service divisions, which has made the university recognised internationally as a leading centre of relevant and innovative research on the continent. The University holds some 25000 South African and 3000 international students with a corps of 939 staff from a diversity of cultural backgrounds and academic professions. Though, traditionally an Afrikaans speaking university, most classes and courses are lectured bilingually in either English or Afrikaans, thereby opening its doors to a broader range of students from across Southern Africa and the world.

The ‘Research Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction’ (RADAR) has been situated at Stellenbosch University’s Department of Geography and environmental studies since 2011. The unit acts as the secretariat and project manager for the Periperi U partnership, assisting in organising the arrangements for meetings between partners as well as sending delegations from the partners to attend international conferences and events.


It was originally established in 1996 and formerly known as the Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Programme (DiMP). Though its name and its base of operations may have changed, RADAR’s mission has remained largely the same since its inception almost 20 years ago. RADAR has successfully implemented professional short courses, introduced disaster risk-related post-graduate programme, generated numerous publications and undertaken nationally and provincially-commissioned research on disaster impacts across the Western Cape.


RADAR has always given priority to building understanding of disaster risks that predominate in the Western Cape of South Africa – through extensive applied research into informal settlement risks, as well as the impacts resulting from recurrent extreme weather events.

It has trained more than 400 development and disaster management practitioners in disaster risk reduction and has generated over 40 honours or masters graduates in disaster risk science.

During this time, RADAR has engaged with a diversity of stake-holders and role-players, including international non-governmental organizations, international and bilateral assistance partners, as well as local, provincial and national government stake-holders.

With respect to its international stature, RADAR is widely regarded as Africa’s most experienced disaster risk reduction capacity development and research centre. As a result of these attributes and capabilities RADAR has been allowed to become the secretariat of complex and challenging initiatives such as the formation and development of Periperi U.

Publications and Commissioned Research  
  • ‘Learning about livelihoods: insights from southern Africa
  • ‘Urban vulnerability: perspectives from southern Africa’
  • ‘Risk, Sustainable Development and Disasters: southern perspectives’
  • Weathering the Storm: Participatory risk assessment for informal settlements
  • Risk & Development Annual Review (RADAR) (2010) commissioned by Western Cape Disaster Management
  • Outbreak of xenophobic violence which led to the internal displacement of thousands of foreign migrants (2011) commissioned by Provincial and National Disaster Management Centres.
  • Humanitarian trends in southern Africa: Challenges and opportunities (2013) commissioned by FAO/OCHA
  • The environment and risk reduction: Focus on urban risk (February 2013  – On going) commissioned by National research network commission on behalf of government and South African Cities Network
  • Eden & Central Karoo Drought Disaster 2009-2011: “The scramble for water”  (2012) commissioned by Western Cape Disaster Management
  • Training, Education, Awareness and Marketing (TEAM) Project (2008) commissioned by Western Cape Disaster Management

Academic Courses:

Stellenbosch University offers two disaster risk-related postgraduate programmes.

 DSC00802    BA Honours Module: Disaster Risk Studies

This is a 6-week postgraduate module in the BA Honours in Geography and Environmental Studies degree programme. The module is hosted by the Research Alliance for Disasters and Risk Reduction (RADAR), an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence for Risk Education and Learning for disaster risk reduction.

The course provides students with an integrated understanding of disaster risk and its implications for sustainable development in southern Africa, with a specific focus on South Africa. Disaster risk teaching in this course is explained as an outcome of the interplay between human and natural factors.

Particular thematic area’s and activities include:

  • Contemporary Disasters
  • Emerging Urban Risks
  • Human Development and Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Flood and Fire Risk
  • Climate Change, Climate Variability and Extreme Weather Events

Visit webpage on the RADAR website to see details of the BA Honours Module


Masters in Disaster Risk Science & Development (DRS&D)

The programme aims to equip participating students with the skills to investigate, analyse and understand disaster risk. It also seeks to strengthen student capabilities to understand the complex interactions between social and physical risk-producing processes at local, national and regional scales. The course provides students with the skills needed for careers in applied disaster risk scholarship as well as in practice settings including community development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk management / reduction. The MPhil programme combines taught modules with independent research reflected in a mini-thesis.

Focus areas include:

  • Disaster Risk Science and Development including Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
  • Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics (including interdisciplinary risk assessment approaches, methods and tools)
  • GIS and Remote Sensing Application for DRR

Visit MPhil DRSD webpage on the RADAR website