Our Team

Dr Robyn Pharoah

- Senior Researcher & Programme Coordinator

Robyn is researcher with more than 20 years’ applied research experience. She has worked as a researcher and analyst in the private, non-governmental and academic sectors, and has experience in social and development research, policy analysis and training and education, both in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.

She obtained a BA Honours degree in Anthropology from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom and a Masters of Social Science in Development Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Over the course of her professional career she has worked on issues as diverse as land reform, crime and victimization, human trafficking and people’s knowledge and attitudes towards HIV/AIDS and the epidemic’s implications for human security. Following almost a of decade developmentally-oriented research in the private and NGO sectors, she became interested in the linkages between development and disasters, and returned to university in the mid-2000s, obtaining a post-graduate degree in Disaster Risk Science from the University of Cape Town, and later her doctorate, which focused on flooding in informal settlements and low-cost housing in Cape Town.

Some recent research projects include a post-event review of the Knysna Fires disaster, a multi-disciplinary post-event review of high-impact weather events in the Western Cape and a review on risk and resilience in African cities. She also convenes RADAR’s MPhil programme in Disaster Risk Science and Development and Postgraduate Diploma in Disaster Risk Studies and Development.

Contact Details

  • Tel: 021 808 9492
  • E-mail: robynpharoah@sun.ac.za
  • Office: Room 2042, Chamber of Mines Building, Stellenbosch University


  • BA Honours (Anthropology), Durham University, 1997
  • M Social Science (Development Studies) (cum laude), University of KwaZulu-Natal, 1999
  • BA Hons (Disaster Risk Studies), University of Cape Town, 2006
  • PhD, University of Cape Town, 2013

Publications, Articles and Research

Cele, N and Pharoah, R (2020). Throw-away people: Insights on community waste-disposal behaviours in informal Kayamandi. In Donaldson, R (Ed.) Human geographies of Stellenbosch: Transforming space, preserving place? Stellenbosch: African Sun Media.

Pharoah, R and Zweig, P (2020). Informal settlement context in South Africa. In, R Walls (Ed.) Fire safety engineering guideline for informal settlements: Towards practical solutions for a complex problem in South Africa. Stellenbosch University: FireSUN publications.

Forsyth, G., le Maitre, D., van den Dool, R., Walls, R., Pharoah, R and Fortune, G. 2019. The 2017 Knysna Fires: Learning from this disaster. Report for Santam.

Zweig, P., Pharoah, R., Eksteen, R and Walls, R (2018). Installation of Smoke Alarms in an Informal Settlement Community in Cape Town, South Africa: Final report. Report for the Western Fire and Rescue Services.

Ziervogel, G., Pelling, M., Cartwright, A., Chu, E., Deshpande, T., Harris, L., Hyams, K., Kaunda, J., Klaus, B., Michael, K. and Pasquini, L., Rodina., L, Pharoah, R., Scott, D and Zweig, P (2017). Inserting rights and justice into urban resilience: a focus on everyday risk. Environment and Urbanization29(1), pp.123-138.

Zweig, P. & Pharoah, R. 2017. Unique in their complexity: Conceptualising everyday risk in urban communities in the Western Cape, South Africa. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 26 December 2017: 51-56.

Pharoah, R (2016). Strengthening Urban Resilience in African Cities: Understanding and addressing urban risk. ActionAid International.

Pharoah, R., Holloway, A., Fortune, G., Chapman, A., Schaber, E and Zweig, P. (2016). Off the Radar - Synthesis Report High Impact Weather Events in the Western Cape, South Africa 2003 – 2014. Research Alliance for Disaster and Risk Reduction (RADAR): Stellenbosch University.

Pharoah, R (2014). Built-in Risk: Linking housing concerns and flood risk in subsidised housing settlements in Cape Town, South Africa. International Journal of Disaster Risk, vol. 5(4).

Pharoah, R, Fortune, G, Chasi, V and Holloway, A (2013). The Environment and Risk Reduction: Focus on urban risk. Input paper for Integrated Urban Development Framework. South African Cities Network.

Pharoah, R (2009). ‘Fire risk in informal settlements in Cape Town’. In Pelling, M and Wisner, B (eds.) Disaster Risk Reduction: Cases from Urban Africa. Earthscan: London/Sterling, VA.

Pharoah, R (2009). Sustainable Livelihoods and the Disaster-Poverty Nexus. Input paper prepared for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction’s 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Ndinga-Muvumba, A and Pharoah, R (eds.) (2008). HIV/AIDS and society in South Africa. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

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