A critical analysis of community participation and benefits from conservation : a comparative study of Mthethomusha Game Reserve and the Pilanesberg National Park.
This dissertation is an attempt to analyse and address some of the many and complex issues revolving around protected area - community relationships. The success of these relationships are essential if the mission of protected areas are to be achieved. Due to large scale agriculture, high density populations and environmental degradation protected areas are often looked upon as a means to conserve biodiversity. It is for this reason that they play an important role in the natural environmental of South Africa. However, there is a growing realisation that protected areas will not survive unless they become relevant to the communities that surround them. These cOI11nlunities are often characterised by high density populations and low levels of infrastructural and economic development. These developmental requirements need to be considered by protected area management, and a dedicated effort is required by protected areas to assist in meeting these needs. However, the relationship between protected areas and C0111nlunities should not simply focus on meeting the developmental needs of the community, relationships need to allow for communities to participate in decisions and activities that directly impact of their lives. Benefits need to accrue to communities from protected areas for them to support the concepts of conservation. Benefits need to be tangible, intangible and empowering for them to have real meaningful impacts on the communities. Communities need to be actively involve in all aspects of the protected area management and links need to be forged between conservation and development, so that the socio-economic condition of those living closest to protected areas improves. This study uses the relationship between Mthethomusha Game Reserve and the surrounding Mpakeni conmunity, and the Pilanesberg National Park and the neighbouring Bakgatla community to investigate many issues, including the manner in which communities participate and benefit from conservation. The findings of this study reflect that the relationships between communities and protected areas are dependent on a number of factors including~ ownership~ socio-economic condition of the surrounding community~ institutional structures and capacity of the community formal agreements; history of the fonl1ati~n of the protect~d a~ea~ reliance on the protected area for survival and the meaningfulness and appropriateness of the benefits received from the protected area. The experiences of the two case studies has been analysed and compared to develop a theoretical model for community - protected area relationships. This model indicates the primary prerequisites which will contribute to effective and equitable relationships between protected areas and surrounding communities.