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Communities, Entitlements and Nature Reserves: The Case of the Wild Coast, South Africa

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Kepe, Thembela
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1693
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
environmental policy
traditional resource management
participatory development
rural development
Abstract: "South Africa's post-apartheid government has committed itself to redressing the imbalances of the past, with the aim of improving the quality of life for millions of black people. Policy makers aim to develop policies that will have a positive effect on the poorest people of South Africa, particularly those who live in rural areas (ANC, 1994). In policy documents, communities are regarded as central to development and community-based sustainable development is seen as the way to achieve these ambitious goals. In rural development programmes, new policies give communities responsibilities to decide on the directions to take. This is especially true of development in and around protected areas, where there is pressure on nature conservation authorities to relate to the welfare needs of the neighbouring communities (Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 1996). However, while these policies have good intentions, the assumptions on which they are based -- such as those that suggest community coherence and harmonious interaction between rural communities and the environment -- have become subject to increasing critique. "'Community-based sustainable development' has become central to the development rhetoric of the 'new' South Africa. As part of the new democratic dispensation, rural communities, it is argued, should now have a stake in their own development and a constitutional right to have a say in matters that affect their future. But what does this mean in practice, especially where development options are hotly contested? How can rights over land and resources be renegotiated when competing claimants argue that their rights should prevail? How can local voices be heard when large, regional economic development initiatives (such as the Spatial Development Initiative for the Wild Coast) are being planned? In areas near parks and reserves, how can new bargains be struck between local people and conservation authorities, given a long history of antagonism between them? These are just some of the questions being faced by policy-makers and development agents across rural South Africa, questions which are particularly pertinent in the case of protected areas along the Wild Coast in the former Transkei. "Through a case study of the Mkambati area of the Wild Coast, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, this paper explores how the interaction of social and ecological dynamics affects the livelihoods of the rural poor who live near protected conservation areas. Using the environmental entitlements framework (see Leach, Mearns and Scoones, 1997), it seeks to explain how local people's use and management of resources within and outside the protected areas, are shaped by institutional arrangements at both local and macro-levels. Two livelihood cases are used to illustrate how resource-related community and institutional conflicts impact on livelihoods. The paper concludes by exploring some of the policy implications for rural people's livelihoods and protected area management interactions."

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