An examination of the natural resource asset base of rural households : a case study of KwaDube, a rural community in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The spotlight on rural developed and sustainable livelihoods has increased over the years. Additionally, the importance of natural resources (specifically in poorer contexts and rural areas that have limited infrastructure and services) is well documented. This research focuses on examining the natural resource asset base of rural households in KwaDube, a rural community in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It argues that natural resources are central to rural households. The research further asserts that, for rural households to have sustainable livelihoods, their natural resources should be available, diverse and accessible. A diverse natural resource asset base provides rural households with a variety of strategies and means for strong livelihood outcomes and coping mechanisms during times of shocks and stress. The research establishes that KwaDube has 28 natural resources used by households of which land is the primary resource. However, households of KwaDube have limited control and access to land and other natural resources in their community. Research further establishes that due to the influence of patriachal traditions which favor men over women in the allocation of resources and opportunities, there is limited equitable access to natural resources. Added to the impact of partriarchy, this study observes that the other main challenge to natural resource accessibility and use is the continuity of Apatheid policies and traditional administrative arrangements which provided access and entitlements to specific groups of people at the expense of others (age, race and gender). The research notes the numerous challenges faced by rural households that highlight their inability to have adequate resources. There is generally very little if any ownership in the form of private property. The available natural resources such as land, forests and water are public property and are degraded. There are inadequate laws protecting use of public property, hence households find themselves exposed to over-consumed natural resources associated with the tragedy of the commons. Diminishing resources mean households continue to struggle to build strong natural resource asset bases. Consequently, households adopt livelihood strategies that are survivalist in nature such as seeking jobs elsewhere, diversifying their income by engaging in off-farm employment and engaging in petty trade using some of the natural resources in KwaDube.