Proposing the Aqua Project

As Leonardo DiCaprio stated in his Oscar award-winning speech, 2015 was the hottest year recorded in history. This was collectively felt over the globe. Developing countries feel the impact of climate change most severely. Southern Africa has fallen victim to drought during the 2015-2016 period. This has been experienced through water shortages, increased food prices, crop failures and erratic weather patterns.

Credit: Riaan du Plessis  ‘South Africa Considers more Aid for Drought-hit Farmers’ –  The Voice of America.

The onset of the drought was caused by the climatic swing of a global weather phenomenon, the El Niño, and was exacerbated by human-induced climate change. The El Niño occurs off the coast of South America in the Pacific Ocean every 5-8 years. It results from the weakening of trade winds which inhibits the upwelling of cold water along the Peruvian coast. This, in turn, affects the global climatic pattern as sea surface temperature has a strong bearing over the climate. Over the past decades, the effects of the El Niño are gradually felt more severely. The signs are that this year’s El Niño event is shaping up to be as severe or worse than the one of 1997-98, the strongest on record.

Climate change is not just an environmental problem; it is a human problem. Many believe that it is a challenge for the future, but the worsening conditions of the El Niño felt this year indicates otherwise. What we hope to achieve through our project is this, to draw reader’s attention to the human struggles of the South African drought through telling human stories of farmers and farm workers affected. In doing this, it hopefully gains empathy from viewers who will take steps to become more environmentally conscious.

In order to communicate the human story of climate change statistics illustrating the number of people affected will be displayed on the website. For example, 32 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have been directly impacted by the drought (Anon., 2016). South Africa is already a water stressed country, but this year’s drought has resulted in extreme water shortages of 2,7 million households (Goldberg & Murphy, 2015). This drought has had a detrimental effect on South Africa’s economic activities. So far, it has cost South African farmers R10 billion (Yende, 2015). Yet, it has cost the economy even more because South Africa have had to import maize against an already weak rand. The consequences of this drought are said to be felt until the year 2019. It has affected the soil, water supply, crops and livestock.

Building an Interactive Website

This project will take the form of an interactive website, making use of various media to tell the story. It will employ photography, audio, video and an interactive to fully voice the stories. On the technical side, the website will lean on a range of different media to communicate local stories of people affected. Visual elements like photography and video will be included, as well as audio. These will all be carefully arranged on the website to create an interactive experience for the viewer. The aim is to cultivate an easy navigable user experience that is simple, educational and informative. The medium of an interactive website has been selected in hopes of engaging a younger audience who are familiar with the digital world.

The website will draw inspiration from the likes of Al Jazeera’s interactive stories, use of interactive flood maps and innovative ways to help the audience connect with the people in the story. The impact of the drought has been felt differently in all parts of South Africa, with areas like the North West and Northern Cape being more adversely affected that the Eastern Cape. Hopefully the map will be an effective platform to communicate the consequences of the drought and give a spatial representation of areas affected.

This slideshow summarises the background of the project, what it hopes to achieve and what it is modelled after. Made by Claudia Emanuel and Soninke Combrinck

By Soninke


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