Review of current policies which are impacting on the sustainability of natural woodlands in African communal rural areas in South Africa.
South Africa has a fragmented past. Attempts to redress inequalities must acknowledge and understand the context of rural South Africa in terms of natural ecosystems. We are used to be being told that forests are good for us all. Certainly, the range of benefits that can be derived from forests, specifically natural woodlands are legion. The woodlands in South Africa are essential in the lives of many South Africans. It is for this reason that woodland resources are regarded as extremely important, not only for the maintenance of rural livelihoods but also as a potential contributor to the national economy. The woodlands are a diverse resource, extending over a vast area of the country and across several provincial boundaries. This as well as varied tenure systems as well as management objectives which exist, make the woodlands of South Africa a complex, yet essential resource to manage, monitor and sustain on a national level. Policy should therefore be able to ensure some kind of balance so that woodlands can be conserved, developed and sustainably managed in the most suitable ways possible. The findings of previous studies conducted on the woodland biome have highlighted the lack of sufficient knowledge of community perceptions with regards to the policy issues. This has been the catalyst in promoting informed reviews of current policies, in effect, which are affecting woodlands in African communal rural areas in South Africa. This particular study illustrates that there are a range of policies, both national and international, that impact either directly or indirectly on the woodlands in South Africa. The research identifies some of the key limitations in the various existing policies. Furthermore, the key concern raised is that current policies remain fragmented and are not in synergy with each other. Additionally, the ability to translate policy intentions into practice (that is, the implementation of policy directives) remain problematic. The gaps in the policy environment as well as the failure to implement are the key threats to ensuring the effective use of policy in promoting the sustainability of the woodlands in the South Africa context.