A role for protected areas in community income-generation : a study of the northern Drakensberg.
Sub-Saharan Africa is becoming increasingly impoverished with ever-increasing gaps between rich and poor, particularly in deep rural areas where access to even the basic infrastructure needed for development is insufficient. Ironically such areas are often encountered on the edges of protected areas where conservation exists in its purest forms, the preservation of wildlife. Wildlife conservation, as a preservationist ideal, is in conflict with the rural poor who share its borders. Often the diminishing natural resource base, upon which the rural inhabitants depend for subsistence, is disappearing either through depletion or inside fences in the name of conservation. Having been placed on the development continuum, often by Western ideals, rural dwellers are now dependent on income-generation for their survival. This case study examines the opportunities for rural communities to become involved in meaningful income-generation and how local conservation bodies, managers of protected areas, might encourage and facilitate this. Often the challenge for conservation bodies is to accommodate the development needs of neighbours of protected areas within their own goals of preserving wildlife. The cultural basis of conservation is in transition, given the realisations of the depth of poverty and the new social questioning of the moral right to spend so much on what many now consider to be archaic notions of nature. The desire to integrate conservation with development is by itself insufficient to make a sustainable difference to local communities. Rather, holistic development models are needed to allow conservation to play an effective role in income-generation, from creating the background for successful businesses to helping create markets for produce. Analyses of current conservation techniques to involve communities in conservation suggest the need for a shifting of the conservative, preservationist culture that dominates conservation bodies, towards a more people-centred approach. With this comes a realisation that the goals of development cannot be achieved through conservation but ironically the goals of conservation can be achieved through development of neighbouring communities.