An investigation of perceptions, participation, and socio-economic impacts of community-based conservation programmes : the case of Buffelsdraai, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Nkambule, Sizwe Sbongakonke.
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There has been growing concern regarding the impacts of climate change-related concerns, coupled with the realisation that these concerns will be experienced differently across countries. At the local level, these climate change-related risks are expected to be more severely felt in disadvantaged and marginalised communities, especially those with a strong reliance on their ecological resource base. Consequently, responses such as reforestation have been identified as appropriate interventions for climate change mitigation. Historically, reforestation projects have predominantly showed a strong ecological focus, however, there has been a transition to include social aspects to provide more holistic approaches. The eThekwini Municipality in partnership with Wildlands Conservation Trust and Durban Solid Waste have embarked on reforestation initiatives such as the Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project (BLSCRP) for carbon sequestration, enhancement of ecological resilience, and increase in local community adaptive capacity. In this regard, the present study examined community perceptions, participation and impacts of a community-based reforestation project. Additionally, the study used the Political Ecology, Socio-Ecological Systems, and Sustainable Livelihoods Framework as conceptual frameworks. This study adopted a mixed methodological approach with the Buffelsdraai community in KwaZulu-Natal chosen as the case study where 270 households were interviewed using a quantitative survey. This study adopted a multistage, spatially-based sampling framework, for randomisation and geographic representation. Key findings include low levels of awareness of ecological terms however, respondents’ conceptualisation of these terms was closely aligned to the scientific definitions. This indicates that it is not sufficient to exclusively focus on awareness of terminologies, but it is also important to unpack how individuals conceptualise these terms. It was further found that respondents derived multiple goods and services which contributed to household natural capital. The strong reliance on these ecosystem goods and services requires conservation authorities to ensure that projects implemented within the community do not disrupt access to and utilisation of natural resources. Even though there were high level of awareness of the BLSCRP, a minority of respondents were active members. It was revealed that community members involved in the project did obtain multiple benefits. However, this was limited to a small proportion of the community. More concerning were community perceptions regarding the recruitment of individuals into the project, which caused conflict within the community. These findings highlight the importance of continuous monitoring and evaluation to determine the impacts on local communities, and overall applicability of these interventions.