Developing key success criteria for rural development initiatives in the context of sustainable land management.
An assessment of service delivery in rural areas is critical in understanding the impacts and extent of sustainable land management (SLM). It has been South Africa’s main objective to improve and speed-up service delivery to eradicate poverty in rural areas as indicated in the 1994 constitution. Statistics and field surveys indicate that, despite apartheid having ended in 1994, grassroots development in remote rural areas is still poor, often due to weak service delivery. This situation has in turn resulted in increased pressure on the natural resources leading to severe deforestation and overgrazing, soil erosion and surface water degradation. To achieve sustainable land management, it is critical to ensure that services are disseminated to rural communities because this will reduce pressure on natural resources. The aim of this study is to provide an assessment of the state of development as measured by the effectiveness of current service delivery in the south eastern part of South Africa and its implications for sustainable land management. The results of the study indicate that there is a strong relationship between poor service delivery and SLM problems in rural areas. The underdeveloped rural areas with poor service delivery demonstrated high levels of land degradation as compared to areas with better service delivery. In this study four communities (i.e. Mangoloaneng, Mahohoho, Njane and Mazabekweni Central) were assessed. Two of the communities under study were developed (Njane and Mazabekweni Central) and the others were underdeveloped. World Overview of Conversation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) field guide manual was used to assess the level of land degradation associated with poor service delivery in each community. Results indicate that Mangoloaneng and Mahohoho communities have poor service delivery compared to Njane and Mazabekweni Central. The results indicate the 88% of people from Mangoloaneng and Mahohoho rely on unclean water from unprotected sources such as streams, rivers, wells or springs for domestic use. Residents from these two communities have no access to electricity, proper sanitation facilities and also live in mud houses which are shown to be susceptible to extreme weather events. Moreover, infrastructural access to these communities is very difficult, due to bad road conditions. The study has established that there is a strong relationship between poor service delivery and SLM problems in rural areas. In order to achieve sustainable development in rural areas, it is therefore important to have clearly defined criteria which can be used as a base for rural development. The study identified the following services as key criteria for rural development; clean piped water, sustainable housing and sanitation facilities, well maintained roads, electricity provision and schools (primary and secondary).