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 Prof. Barbara Tapela

Position: Senior Researcher
Department: Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)
Faculty: Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
Qualifications: PhD (UWC), MA (Geography) (UP), MPhil (Water Resources Studies) (UWC)
Tel: 021-959-3730
Fax: 021 959 9736


  Integrated Water Resources Management, Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM), sustainable livelihoods, strategic partnerships and smallholder farmer integration into agro-food chains, transboundary water management.


Dr Barbara Nompumelelo Tapela is a senior researcher with broad expertise in applied social research, policy engagement, community engagement, stakeholder participation and Stakeholder Analysis. From the basis of Integrated Water Resources Management, Barbara’s research interests revolve around analyses of institutional interventions for resolving macro-economic policy challenges in the context of uncertainties due to various drivers of change, including climatic change. Her current, new and envisaged research includes:
Baseline and scoping study on the development and sustainable use of storage dams for inland fisheries and their contribution to rural livelihoods;
Social protests and water service delivery in South Africa;
Water Governance and traditional leadership in South Africa;
Mobilising ecosystem services to alleviate poverty;
Managing South Africa’s water, energy and food nexus.

Recent and ongoing research includes :
Assessing strategic partnerships in the Revitalization of Smallholder Irrigation Schemes (RESIS) Programme in Limpopo Province, South Africa;
Agricultural commercialisation and livelihoods in smallholder irrigation schemes in ISRDP poverty nodes in Limpopo Province;
Social water scarcity and water use in South Africa; and
Water rights in informal economies.

Barbara has also extensively facilitated Stakeholder Participation training, roadmap construction and strategy development for international and regional water professionals in the field of transboundary water management for various river basins, including Orange-Senqu, Limpopo, Incomati-Maputo, Cunene, Nile (NELSAP Region, including Kagera Basin).


  1. Britz, P., Hara, M., Weyl, O., Tapela, B., Rouhani, Q., 2015. Scoping Study on the Development and Sustainable Utilisation of Inland Fisheries in South Africa, Volume 1: Research Report (Technical Report No. TT 615/1/14). Water Research Commission (WRC), Pretoria.
  2. Hodson Makurira, B.M., Tapela, B., 2014. Implementing water science research to benefit all. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C s 67–69, 1–3.
  3. Tapela, B., Britz, P., Rouhani, Q., 2015. Scoping Study on the Development and Sustainable Utilisation of Inland Fisheries in South Africa, Volume 2: Research Report (Technical Report No. TT 615/2/14). Water Research Commission (WRC), Pretoria.
  4. Tapela, B.N., 2014a. Survey of Small Scale Fishing in Rural Livelihoods in South Africa, in: Britz, P., Hara, M., Weyl, O., Tapela, B.N., Rouhani, Q. (Eds.), Baseline and Scoping Study on the Development and Sustainable Utilisation of Storage Dams for Inland Fisheries and Their Contribution to Rural Livelihoods. Water Research Commission, Pretoria.
  5. van Koppen, B., van der Zaag, P., Manzungu, E., Tapela, B., 2014. Roman water law in rural Africa: the unfinished business of colonial dispossession.Water International 39, 49–62. doi:10.1080/02508060.2013.863636Tapela, B., 2013. Conflicts over land and water in AfricaJournal of Peasant Studies40, 319–321.
  6. Tapela, B.N., 2013. Cry Water! Struggles for Water in Ntlalavini.
  7. Tapela, B., Manzungu, E., Sithole, P., Van Koppen, B., 2009. Phases and interfaces: National and local water investments in Sekororo Communal Lands, Limpopo Basin, South Africa. Economics, Management, and Financial Markets 80–108.
  8. Muller, M., Schreiner, B., Smith, L., van Koppen, B., Sally, H., Aliber, M., Cousins, B., Tapela, B., van der Merwe-Botha, M., Karar, E., 2009. Water security in South Africa ( No. 12), Development Planning Division - Working Paper Series. Development Bank of Southern Africa, Halfway House.
  9. Tapela, B.N., Büscher, B.E., Maluleke, L., Twine, W.C., Steenkamp, C., 2009. Guidelines for negotiating social research in communities living adjacent to transboundary protected areas: Kruger National Park
  10. Van Koppen, B., Sally, H., Aliber, M., Cousins, B., Tapela, B., 2009. Water resources management, rural redress and agrarian reform (Development Planning Division Working Paper Series No. 7). Development Bank of Southern Africa, Halfway House.
  11. Tapela, B.N., 2008. Livelihoods in the wake of agricultural commercialisation in South Africa’s poverty nodes: insights from small-scale irrigation schemes in Limpopo ProvinceDevelopment Southern Africa 25, 181–198.
  12. Tapela, B.N., L, M., C, M., 2007. New Architecture, Old Agendas: Perspectives on Social Research in Rural Communities Neighbouring the Kruger National ParkConservation and Society 5, 60.
  13. Tapela, B.N., 2006. Stakeholder Participation in the Transboundary Management of  the Pungwe River Basin, in: Earle, A., Malzbender, D. (Eds.),Stakeholder Participation in Transboundary Water Management – Selected Case Studies. African Centre for Water Research, Cape Town.
  14. Tapela, B.N., 2006. Community participation in natural resource management: the case of the Makuleke community based natural resource management initiative. University of Pretoria.
  15. Tapela, B., 2005. Joint ventures and livelihoods in emerging small-scale irrigation schemes in Greater Sekhukhune District: Perspectives from Hereford ( No. 21), Research Report. PLAAS, University of the Western Cape, Bellville.
  16. Tapela, B.N., 2002. The challenge of integration in the implementation of Zimbabwe’s new water policy: case study of the catchment level institutions surrounding the Pungwe–Mutare water supply project. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C 27, 993–1004.
  17. Tapela, B.N., 2002. Institutional Challenges in Integrated Water Resources Management in Zimbabwe: A Case Study of Pungwe Sub-catchment Area. University of the Western Cape.
  18. TAPELA, B.N., OMARA-OJUNGU, P.H., 1999. Towards Bridging the Gap Between Wildlife Conservation and Rural Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa: The Case of the Makuleke Community and the Kruger National ParkSouth African Geographical Journal 81, 148–155.​​




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