A Systemic Framework for Context-Based Decision Making in Natural Resource Management: Reflections on an Integrative Assessment of Water and Livelihood Security Outcomes Following Policy Reform in South Africa

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"We aimed to contribute to the field of natural resource management (NRM) by introducing an alternative systemic context-based framework for planning, research, and decision making, which we expressed practically in the development of a decision-making 'tool' or method. This holistic framework was developed in the process of studying a specific catchment area, i.e., the Sand River Catchment, but we have proposed that it can be generalized to studying the complexities of other catchment areas. Using the lens of systemic resilience to think about dynamic and complex environments differently, we have reflected on the development of a systemic framework for understanding water and livelihood security under transformation in postapartheid South Africa. The unique aspect of this framework is that allows researchers and policy makers to reframe catchments as being recognizable as complex social-ecological systems, and by doing so, the possibility is opened to understand resiliency in the face of rapid transformation and crisis. Ultimately, this holistic approach can be used to understand the translation of policy into practice. We have emphasized our reflections on the development and use of the framework and the challenges and successes faced by collaborators in the process of adopting such an orientation. Because these are likely to characterize policy and decision-making processes in NRM in general, we have suggested that such a systemic framing can assist researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to adopt systems and resilience analyses in the process of planning and implementation."
complexity, decision making, governance and politics, resilience, social-ecological systems, livelihoods