From Exclusion to Ownership: The Continuing Transformation of the Role the Communities in Relation to Two Adjacent Nature Reserves on South Africa's 'Wild Coast'

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



"Like South Africa itself, the country's coastline comprises more developed and less developed stretches. Portions of the Western Cape and Natal coast approximate Southern California or the French Riviera; other stretches, on the West Coast, in the southern Cape and the eastern Cape, and to the north of Durban are less developed, but the resorts and settlements have modern infrastructure. Next to the Zululand Coast, the 'Wild Coast' or the former Transkei is the least developed of the entire coastline. Accessed mainly by dirt roads of up to 100km long which are so poorly maintained as to be virtually impassable by conventional vehicles when it rains (as it does regularly here), the area also lacks electricity and telephones. Other services, such as shops and garages, tend to be associated with the trading stores which are geared to the needs of the subsistence-agrarian indigenous population. In spite of these deterrents, the hitherto unspoiled beauty of the area has long attracted the more robust local holidaymakers and, increasingly, international tourists to the few resort hotels and holiday-cottages. "Near the centre of the Wild Coast the Mbashe River in its scenic gorge divides nearly 6,000 hectares of pristine forests, grasslands, estuaries and coastline into twin nature reserves: that of Dwesa on the western side and Cwebe on the eastern side. Only a quarter of one percent of South Africa consists of indigenous forest, so these fine examples of South Coast Forest are especially valuable. This has long been recognised by the State, and the forests have been protected in one form or another since the turn of the century. Now the twin nature reserves are about to pass from the ownership of the South African state to that of the surrounding communities -- Xhosa-speakers subsisting, for the most part, on a combination of animal husbandry, cultivation, remittances and welfare. "This paper, based on research still in progress, analyses the transition of the reserves from areas of protection and exclusion to a new role as the greatest material assets of the surrounding communities in the contexts of the making of the old South Africa and the transition to the new."



IASC, wildlife, forest management, indigenous institutions, village organization, coastal resources, participatory management, traditional resource management