Sustainable management in a disturbed environment : a case study of the Hogsback Working for Water Project.
Coleman, Jayne Alexandra.
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Invasive alien plants in South Africa have become one of the major environmental problems affecting millions of hectares of productive and conservation land. Acacia mearnsii, black wattle, is a key invader species along the eastern escarpment. The major rivers of the country rise on this escarpment and the water catchments have been severely affected by black wattle invasion that has reduced water flow and increased soil erosion. The government introduced the Working For Water (WFW) programme in 1995 in order to address the problem of invasive alien plants in the country while, at the same time, creating job opportunities. This study researches the implementation of WFW projects in the small mountain village of Hogsback in the Amatola Mountains since their inception in 1996/97. The main research question posed by this study is: "What factors support or threaten sustainable environmental management through the Working For Water Programme in the Hogsback area?" It gives a history of the environmental changes since 1800 as a result of human disturbance. The social history of the area is described from the viewpoint of the social and cultural disturbances that led to the present day community conflict. The interface between the environmental and social history is then discussed. Semi-structured interviews were held with twenty eight members of the Hogsback community to solicit their views and perceptions of the WFW projects and the role of civil society and government in sustainable environmental management of invasive alien vegetation. Environmental and development plans undertaken for the Hogsback area were analysed. The results were then discussed in terms of the national and regional goals of WFW. The findings indicated that most of the goals of WFW have not met with great success in Hogsback. A number of limiting factors were identified, the primary one being community conflict, both within and without WFW. As the community struggles to address the aspirations of the landless and economically deprived black population while, at the same time, addressing the fears of the white population, the rapid rate of societal, governance and legislative change since the election of the democratic government in 1994 contributed to an environment of uncertainty. Within WFW, there are management problems that have limited the success achieved in clearing invasive alien species in the catchment. The lack of long-term strategic plans, sufficient accurate data and hands-on management are shortcomings in the local projects. The likely long-term effects of large scale clearing in this disturbed environment, without proper rehabilitation, are serious concerns.
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