Integrating conservation and development : a study of KwaJobe.
Low levels of development, increasing levels of environmental degradation and poverty are features which characterise many rural areas in the Developing World. The socio-economies of these rural communities are primarily founded on the direct utilization of the natural resource base. The challenge faced by rural communities is thus to achieve socio-economic growth and stability in conjunction with environmental conservation and stability. Integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) have been applied in underdeveloped areas with the objective of enhancing biodiversity conservation through approaches which attempt to address the needs, constraints and opportunities faced by the rural communities. While successes have been recorded, critical analyses by researchers have found that few projects have met their objectives. This case study in KwaJobe, KwaZulu-Natal, attempts to ascertain the development priorities as identified by the community. The participatory rural appraisal techniques utilized in this study provide a valuable approach for local people to provide information to outsiders, as well as to analyse their own circumstances with reference to natural resource management. The findings of the study indicate that the community is characteristic of many rural communities in underdeveloped areas. The development priorities identified by the community focus on economic and social welfare needs. The presentation of two natural resource based development models, ie, a resource based tourism development and an irrigation development, were used to interpret the development preferences and priorities of the community. From this it was possible to ascertain that the communities development priorities do not include natural resource management or environmental conservation. Development initiatives which rank these criteria as the primary objective do not induce support from the community. Approaches to rural development thus need to focus primarily on the meeting of community identified needs if they are to be accepted and supported by the community. Methods need to be devised to facilitate sustainable development which offer opportunities for environmental conservation, rather than attempting to achieve development via conservation initiatives. There is thus a need for a change in the focus of ICDPs from using conservation initiatives to facilitate rural community development, to a focus which prioritises meeting the development needs identified by the communities. Attempts can then be made to facilitate environmental conservation by means of integrated development and conservation projects (IDCPs).