johan.enqvist [at]

+27 661 01 43 47


Profile summary

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Urban social-ecological systems
  • Social movements
  • Sense of place
  • Inequality and environmental justice
  • Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods

Johan Enqvist's research investigates how people in cities care for, understand and act to build a more sustainable relationship with nature

Enqvist studies people’s relationship with the rest of nature, focusing on values, perceptions and actions shape stewardship of urban social-ecological systems. He leads two projects based in Cape Town, South Africa.

The first, funded by VR (the Swedish Research Council) investigates how the city’s recent water crisis affected people's awareness of, concern for and ability to act to conserve water resources. The second, recently funded by Formas (a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development), will study the often fraught relationship between residents and baboon troops that forage for food in the city’s fringes.

Both topics highlight how in the Anthropocene, human expectations of what is “natural” system behaviour are increasingly defied. Such uncertainty can cause disruption, conflict and fear, but also help shape new knowledge and new forms of collaborations towards more sustainable human-nature relationships.

Environmental justice and inequality are important aspects of this work, and Enqvist collaborates directly with various community-based groups and other non-academic partners to co-design his research to meet societal needs as well as answering pressing questions in sustainability science.

Prior to his current work, Enqvist completed a two-year postdoc at University of Cape Town’s Department of Environmental and Geographical Science. This studied urban resilience and water governance during the peak and aftermath of Cape Town’s 2015-2018 drought, focusing on how multiple interpretations of resilience and sustainability affects cross-scale governance in urban environments.

Enqvist earned his PhD at SRC in October 2017. His thesis explored the concept of stewardship through case studies of civic engagement in urban ecosystem management in Bangalore, India and New York, USA. This work demonstrated different methodological approaches to studying three main dimensions of stewardship: care, knowledge and agency.

Enqvist’s PhD included collaborations with and extended research visits to colleagues at Cornell University and the US Forest Service in USA, and the Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in India. He also collaborated with ATREE during his MSc thesis project, completed in 2012 through SRC’s master’s programme Ecosystems, Resilience and Governance. Enqvist holds an undergraduate degree in Environment and Development from Södertörn University.

Enqvist is primarily based at University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative, working with Assoc. Prof. Gina Ziervogel who has many years’ experience researching governance around climate adaptation and water issues in Cape Town. Through his collaboration with Dr. Ziervogel, Enqvist has also been able to attend and share research findings at the City of Cape Town’s monthly meetings of the Water Resilience Advisory Committee.

Enqvist’s research is increasingly transdisciplinary, involving in particular community-based organisations (CBOs) in planning, design, execution and dissemination of studies. This includes close collaboration with Cape Town-based NGO Environmental Monitoring Group, CBO Western Cape Water Caucus, private actors such as NCC Environmental Services which has the current tender for Cape Town’s Baboon Programme, as well as residents and residents’ associations.

Awards and achievements

  • Early career research grant from Formas (a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development), 2021
  • Mobility grant from VR (the Swedish Research Council), 2019
  • Fellowship grant from the Sweden-America Foundation, 2015
  • Minor Research Project grant from Stockholm University, 2013
  • MSc fieldwork scholarship from SRC, 2011
  • Minor Field Study grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, 2009

Current funding

  • Vetenskapsrådet, the Swedish Research Council, grant number 2019-00508
  • Formas, a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, grant number 2021-00780


Key publications

Enqvist, J. et al. Stewardship as a boundary object for sustainability research: Linking care, knowledge and agency. Urban Plan. 179, 17–37 (2018).

Enqvist, J. & Ziervogel, G. Water governance and justice in Cape Town: An overview. Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. Water 6, e1354 (2019).

Enqvist, J. et al. Informality and water justice: community perspectives on water issues in Cape Town’s low-income neighbourhoods. J. Water Resour. Dev. 38, 108–129 (2022).

Enqvist, J. P., Campbell, L. K., Stedman, R. C. & Svendsen, E. S. Place meanings on the urban waterfront: a typology of stewardships. Sci. 14, (2019).

Enqvist, J. P., Tengö, M. & Bodin, Ö. Are bottom-up approaches good for promoting social–ecological fit in urban landscapes? Ambio 49, (2020).

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Publications by Enqvist, Johan