Department of Geography

Prof M D Nicolau

College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences
School of Environmental Sciences
Department: Geography
Tel: 011 670 9492


    • BA (University of Pretoria)
    • BA Hons in Geography (University of Pretoria)
    • HED (University of Pretoria)
    • MA Geography (University of Pretoria)
    • PhD Geography (University of South Africa)

    Fields of academic interests

    Teaching Interests

    Topics within the holistic field of environmental geography, specifically topics related to rural settlements, reduction of poverty and levels of inequality and quality of life.

    Research Interests

    • Participatory rural appraisal in rural areas
    • Application of a community asset mapping programme with the specific intention of reducing poverty and inequality.
    • Empowering rural communities through skills training and entrepreneurial opportunities
    • Sustainable food security
    • Post development theory and its link to human and social capital
    • Land Reform
    • Environmental awareness and responsibility in rural areas
    • Sustainable livelihoods approach
    • Migration and population dynamics
    • Gender and women’s empowerment
    • Global partnerships for sustainable change.

    Journal articles

    • Nicolau, M.D. & Davis, N.C., 2003. Restructuring South African Geography, South African Geographical Journal, 84 (1), 12 - 20.
    • Arega Bazezew, Woldeamlak Bewket & Melanie Nicolau. 2013. Rural households’ livelihood assets, strategies and outcomes in drought-prone areas of the Amhara Region, Ethiopia: Case Study in Lay Gaint District.  African Journal of Agricultural Research, Vol.8 (46), 5716-5727. 
    • Moyo, I., Nicolau, M.D. & Fairhurst, U.J., 2012. Migration theories and Zimbabwean migrant teachers as reflected in a South African Case Study. Scientific Annals of Alexandru Ioan Cuza – University of Iasi – Geography series. Vol 58. No.2, 123-146.
    • Hussien, H. W., Mohammed, A.A. & Nicolau, M.D., 2013 Spatio-temporal impact of socio-economic practices on land use/ cover in the Kasso catchment, Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. Scientific Annals of Alexandru Ioan Cuza – University of Iasi – Geography series. Vol 59. No 1, 95 – 120.
    • Pretorius, R.W., Hedding, D.W., Nicolau, M.D., Nkooe, E.S. 2014. "Campus greening in open and distance learning: Curriculum initiatives in the Department of Geography, University of South Africa".  Chapter in Leal Filho, W. (Ed.) Implementing Campus Greening Initiatives: Approaches, Methods and Perspectives. Peter Lang, Frankfurt. (Upcoming volume of book series "Environmental Education, Communication and Sustainability", book is in press
    • Pretorius, RW, Nicolau, MD, Immelman, J & Nothling, M de Jager, AE, du Plessis, A. 2014 Virtual Learning Environments for transformation to sustainability: A case study from the "South". (Upcoming volume of book series "World Sustainable Development Series", Springer Verlag, book in press)

    Paper presentations

    • Geography Conference, Port Elizabeth. July 2007. Dullstroom and Surrounds – More than just a tourist destination (Poster presentation)
    • Florida Society of Geographers, Miami, Florida, 25 to 27 January 2008. Plenary addres: Teaching Geography at a distance: How it is approached at the University of South Africa.
    • Geography Conference, Pretoria, September 2009. A critical Analysis of the international participation of South African Geographers
    • Geography Conference, Pretoria, September 2009. Geographers conferencing for a better world: and analysis of the topics presented at the SSAG conference since 1994.
    • CEMS Community Engagement Conference and two Breakfast discussions in Nov 2011. "Adopt Mathopestat", sharing the department of Geography Community Engagement experience.
    • Geography Conference, Cape Town. July 2012. Geography education in the 21st century. Geography Educators workshop, facilitator and presenter.
    • Carnegie III Conference, Cape Town. September 2012. Community asset mapping as a tool to achieve roots driven change in the rural communities of the Bojanala Region, North West Province, South Africa.
    • 10th International Conference On Environmental, Cultural, Social, and Economic Sustainability. 22 to 27 January 2014 Spilt Croatia. Community Asset Mapping Programme for Roots-driven Sustainable Socio- economic Change in Rural South Africa.
    • United Nations Stakeholder Forum, 17 June 2014, 2pm, 'United Nations Environment Assembly Made Easy to Understand'
    • IAG/NZGS 2014 CFP: Revitalising Feminist Geographies, Session 70: Gender, Sex, Space and Place, 30 June – 2 July, Melbourne. A South African rural community: a before-and-after story of women’s empowerment at work. Co-authored presentation.
    • 2nd World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities, Manchester, United Kingdom, 3-5 September 2014. Virtual learning environments for transformation to sustainability: A case study from the "South" Co-authored Poster presentation

    Professional positions, fellowships & awards

    Teaching Awards

    • The University of South Africa, Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Tuition (2012)

    Professional Societies and Involvement

    • Council Member - Society of South African Geographers, SSAG (2009 – 2013)
    • Member of Council Executive, Society of South African Geographers, SSAG – (2011-2013)
    • Committee Member - South African National Committee (NRF) for the International Geographical Union (term of office 2007-2010, renewed 2011-2014)
    • Member of Florida Society of Geography since 2007 (FSG in USA)
    • Member of Society of the Southern Division of American Geographers since 2009 (SSDAG in USA)


    Project leader of the Roots Driven Rural Development Community Engagement Project.  The main purpose of the project is to use applied science to undertake research and community engagement initiatives that will empower community members by sharing technical expertise and knowledge that will allow communities to take responsibility and in this way contribute to relieving their own socio-economic and environmental poverty that is deeply rooted within the rural landscape of South Africa.  The fundamental approach of the project is aligned to a Community Asset Mapping Programme (CAMP) developed in collaboration between the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation and the Department of Geography. CAMP is based on the asset based approach to community development, which opposes the application of the needs approach to development.  The various activities of the project include (but would not be limited to) the transfer, awareness and application of technical assistance and knowledge to address important environmental, social and economic issues within rural communities as highlighted by the MDGs/SDGs and the National Development Plan: 2030.