Home About Documents Fieldwork News Meetings & events 2010 Upper Olifants Project FAQs Resources Contact

Introduction to the Lower Olifants Project


Communities living near the Olifants River face environmental pollution risks and their health may be threatened. Sound evidence is needed to determine these health risks and identify coping strategies to best protect human health.

Short project summary

Map of the Upper and Lower Olifants River Catchment Management Area.
View larger version

Project fieldwork sites.
Wildlife deaths in parts of the Olifants River Catchment Management Area alerted scientists to possible serious pollution problems. It is known that communities living in close proximity to this river are exposed to pollution, but to what extent and whether health problems can be attributed to this exposure is not known.

Large-scale monitoring is underway to characterise water pollution in this intense mining and agricultural area, and a human health risk assessment project in the Upper Olifants was done in 2010. Results showed that risks from exposure to high pathogen concentrations and metal accumulation in vegetation were at higher levels than what is considered acceptable for consumption of food and water. View more information about the 2010 Upper Olifants Project.

The Lower Olifants Project will use community surveys, focus group discussions and monitoring (of air, water, fish, fruit and vegetables) in the Lower Olifants to identify human health risks, as well as coping strategies used by communities to best protect human health.


To determine the extent to which water and air pollution may have an impact on the health of two communities in the Lower Olifants River Water Catchment Area, with the purpose of identifying potential human health risks and relevant coping strategies that will inform and guide locally-appropriate, sustainable solutions.

Project partners

The project is led by the CSIR Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Research Group in collaboration with the NOVA Institute, South African National Parks (SANParks) and Eduardo Mondlane University.

CSIR Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Research Group
The CSIR environmental health team specialises in finding innovative and relevant solutions through collaborative partnerships in environmental health research in southern Africa.

CSIR Water, Ecosystems and Human Health Research Group
The CSIR Water, Ecosystems and Human Health Research Group specialises in understanding the systems of water use in terms of human well-being, ecosystem integrity and security of water supply for different uses in order to predict various possible results.

CSIR Water Governance Research Group
The CSIR Water Governance Research Group specialises in research to ensure the equitable, efficient and sustainable deployment of water resources to support socio-economic development.

NOVA Institute
NOVA aims to develop and promote ways (models, products, technologies, practices) to improve the quality of life of households. Nova executes its mission together with household residents and networks.

South African National Parks (SANParks) Scientific Services
Scientific Services exists to act as a hub of formal learning in the biophysical sciences, and of rigorous scholarly yet practical thinking, within SANParks.

Eduardo Mondlane University
The Eduardo Mondlane University strives for integration and affirmation in the international scientific community and for being an agent and subject to change and transformation of society.

Deliverables / outputs

  • A report will synthesise current knowledge on environmental pollution and human health in the Lower Olifants.
  • Evidence of environmental pollution in all media will be collected using environmental monitoring. Samples will be assessed to calculate potential health risks depending on different personal exposure pathways.
  • Community health, healthy behaviours and coping strategies (to protect against environmental pollution) will be determined.
  • Decision-makers, community leaders and key role players will be involved throughout the study to collaboratively address raised issues, strengthen community assets and reduce health risks.

Project team

Institution Researcher Role
Eduardo Mondlane University Prof Valerio Macandza
Prof Joaquim Manhique
Data analysis and write-up
Data analysis and write-up
CSIR Dr Caradee Wright
Wouter Le Roux
Karen Nortje
Elliot Moyo
Dr Rebecca Garland
Juanette John
Riëtha Oosthuizen
Bettina Genthe
Project manager
Water sampling
Focus group interactions
Focus group interactions
Project write-up
Questionnaire analysis
Questionnaire interpretation
Risk assessment
NOVA Institute Christiaan Pauw
Hendrik Snyman
Obed Nelovholwe
Alfred Pudumo
Questionnaire fieldwork/data
Questionnaire fieldwork/data
Fieldworker administration
Fieldworker administration
SANPARKS Dr Danny Govender Fish sampling