The Aqua Project: Site Data
- Site Name: The Aqua Project (TAP)
- Keywords – environmentalism, environment, water, water scarcity, drought, drought in South Africa, climate change, El-Nino, agriculture, farming
About the Project
The Aqua Project will investigate the impact of the 2015-2016 drought in South Africa, by examining the impact on local climate, economy. It will particularly focus on the farming industry, as this sector was heavily impacted by the water shortages instigated by the El Nino. Furthermore, we glimpse into the future of South Africa without water.
The Aqua Project was launched as a part of our Senior Research Project at the University of Cape Town.
Word Smith: Soninke
Currently pursuing a degree in Interactive Media, Media and Writing and Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town. I have previous work experience working for an online environmental newspaper called Green Times and have continued with my passion for writing and storytelling by keeping an environmental blog alongside my studies. My role in The Aqua Project is a content producer and researcher. I will also focus on enhancing the user experience on our interactive website.
Computer Whizz: Claudia
I’ve been described as something of a maverick, currently pursuing a BA in Film and Media Production (Interactive Media). Having previously completed a 2-year full-time photography course, I continue to pursue my photography as well as dabbling in all things digital. My encounters with diverse cultures and people from different backgrounds continue to inform my approach to all the work that I do. Claudia’s role within The Aqua Project is managing the technical side of things – from the website, filming/photographing and editing.
Getting to know our users
The users of our website are NGO’s, people that want to be more educated about the drought such as academics and commercial farmers. Unfortunately, subsistence farmers often times don’t have the means and resources to access this information.
- Academically inclined/curious
- Higher LSM groups (access to internet)
Users need accurate and relevant information in a clear and understandable format.
Our site is formulated and set up in such way as to conceptualize the stories in an appealing and interactive. It will be very visual to illustrate the various aspects of the project. Users are able to access the information they want swiftly and easily.
Examples of Personas:
Alicia is a top Environmental Science student who wants to learn more about the El Nino to integrate into her essay. Michael is an elderly man who has a background in academics who wants to pursue further reading after reading an article on the drought in SA. Pete is a wealthy individual who wants to research the drought in SA before donating a significant amount of money to an NGO assisting struggling farmers. A child doing a project for school on how climate change in South Africa affects people.
The goal of our site is to educate and potentially be used as a fundraising tool. These targets will be measured using the following tools:
- Google analytics
- User interaction on media platforms
- Link backs and references to our site
Site Content and Structure:
The functional features of the site is set out below and will better explain the layout of the site. It is essential to know that the website will be divided into six thumbnails for the content, which will be divided up categorically, grouping together relevant bits of information.
Introductory section: The idea of the site is to tell a story about South Africa and water with the threat of climate change fast becoming a reality. South Africa is already a water scarce country, a scarcity that will only be compounded with the advent of climate. This past El-Nino in 2015 – 2016 offers a brief glimpse into the future of South Africa, a country with diverse ecosystems and climate (systems). The effects of the El-Nino manifested in severe drought and sudden, heavy storms and flooding. The Aqua Project hopes to clearly illustrate the anticipated effects of climate change by using the recent El Nino as a future scenario. The project will contextualise South Africa’s present climatic system, the severity of the most recent El-Nino and the (potential landscape) of climate change. As water is a valuable resource that is utilised across all sectors, The Aqua Project will choose to focus the agricultural sector.
Contextualising South Africa’s climate and explaining El-Nino: This section will aim to inform the viewer about South Africa’s present climate, which is rather diverse, as the Western Cape region has a Mediterranean climate which differs from the rest of the country. It will also broach the topic of climate change and how that will affect the climate and environment in South Africa by focussing on the change in rainfall patterns and increasing drought conditions. The El-Nino phenomenon will also be explained on a global scale as well as on a local scale, elucidating the effects of this occurrence on South Africa by drawing from the most recent event in 2015-2016. As this section will be rather scientific, efforts will be made to employ rich media to assist in simplifying it for viewers, such as graphics and video. Information will be drawn from governmental documents to discuss the present state of environment, supplemented by interviews with Dr. Lennard and Dr. Babatunde from the Environmental and Geographical Science Department at the University of Cape Town.
South African Hydrology: To circle back to the idea of South Africa as a story about water, there will be a section dedicated to the state of water in South Africa. We are a semi-arid country that already suffers water shortages, but with the advent of climate change we risk receiving less rainfall with increasing drought conditions. This chapter will contextualise South Africa’s water situation by drawing on facts from governmental documents, and then look at the challenges that are affecting water management. This area will be briefly touched on, and will mostly be used to place in a place of understanding to navigate the rest of the site with our country’s state of water in mind. In this section information will be taken from Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG), as well as from an interview conducted with Karen Shippey, Director of Environmental Sustainability with the Department of Environmental Affairs. The method of storytelling for this part will employ infographics to indicate the acuteness of the present water shortage.
Conversations with a commercial farmer: Commercial farmers have felt the effects of the El-Nino heavily. This past year has indicated how wide the impacts of the drought can be felt in the agricultural industry, through sharp hikes in food prices, food shortages, and influences on farming practises such as receiving late rains, not enough rain or flash floods. This chapter hopes to flesh out the challenges and experiences of a commercial farmer in South Africa in a changing environment. Dr. Andre Roux, Director of Sustainable Resource Management at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, has been consulted to expound on the trials faced by commercial farmers. Dr. Peter Johnston from the African Climate & Development Initiative will tell us about the relationship between the climate and agriculture, as well as the importance of communication between climatologists and farmers. An interview will also be with a commercial farmer to hear about the pressures experienced in drought conditions. The viewer will be supplied with this information through enriched media, using audio for the interview with the commercial farmer and a video interview with Dr. Andre Roux.
Subsistence Farming: Apart from being a trying time for commercial farmers, emerging and subsistence farmers have also suffered in the wake of the 2015-2016 El-Nino. We investigate the extent of this by conducting a case study of cattle farmers in Muden, Kwazulu-Natal, that has undergone erratic weather changes this past year. This section will also highlight the underwhelming support given to subsistence farmers (through education, technology and funding), who find themselves rather vulnerable in these drought conditions. The Aqua Project hopes to tease out what support systems could offer to assist the subsistence farming in sustaining their livelihood through interviewing an official at AgriSA. Video footage will be presented to tell the story of the farmers in Muden, accompanied by images.
Challenges and Adaption Protocols: The final chapter will house a summary of what threatens South African farmers about a changing climate and state of environment in South Africa. It will also explore various options that are available for farmers to improve their farming methods by providing resources about smart farming like ‘conservation farming’, inserting contact details to relevant individuals to assist with smart farming, and perhaps to create a page for raising funds to help support farmers during these trying times.
Timeline for Project:
For our senior research project, we are using WordPress as the platform to build our website. One of the reasons we decided to go this route was because wanted to utilize the very powerful Aesop Story Engine (ASE) plugin.
Longform is the only free WordPress theme designed to be fully compatible with ASE, thus we have chosen to use this form to build our website.
ASE is a plugin that has one particular purpose: to enhance the storytelling experience of long-form articles. It has a variety of components such as audio & video, chapters, timeline and more that all have different functions to enhance the user experience. Since this plugin allows its author to move away from extensive coding, more energy can be put into producing content.
Our website aims to fall in line with a visual identity of an environmental, academic resource portal. Therefore the look has to be clean, but there still needs to reference an environmental outlook. This is mainly achieved through the logo and color scheme which utilizes “earthy” colors that illustrate water and drought (brown, orange and blue). The colours of the logo also match other elements on the website such as hover buttons etc.
The layout of the website is setup in a grid form which presents text heavy articles in an easily distinguishable format. More information is displayed when the user hovers over a particular image.
Since the start of our project, our logo has developed and moved away from what we thought was a more sterile representation (perhaps similar to what a recycling company would use), to what we have today. We believe it is a more honest representation of our overall theme (water scarcity, drought etc.) and also takes a more modern approach relating to our interests in interactive media.
We would prefer to present our website testing users with a list of questions to answer. We will either ask testers for written answers or just verbal answers. However, we will probably get more honest replies with written answers.
These are the type of questions we plan to ask:
- Have you visited this site before? –The answer to this question may affect their first impressions of the website.
- What do you think the purpose of this site is? (ie. selling, informing, entertainment, etc)
- Was it easy to get to the home page from the page you started on? – The answer to this question will help us assess our website’s navigation.
- Was anything too obtrusive?
- Was anything too well hidden?
- Easy to read (both font style and size)?
- Any complaints about the website’s aesthetics?
- How did you find the layout of the site?
- Name your three favorite things about the site, and your three least favorite
We are also particularly inspired by Luis von Ahn’s TED talk on Duolingo’s unorthodox approach to user testing: