Local community participation in coastal tourism: experiences from Nonoti Beach in KwaZulu-Natal.
Gumede, Ntshekane Goodness.
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This study investigates the extent to which the rural community of Nonoti Beach participates in coastal tourism taking place in their ancestral land. During the apartheid era, this community was forcibly removed to make way for agriculture and the area was later identified for tourism development. After 1994, the first democratic government of South Africa made it its priority to restore the displaced communities back to their land through land reform and redistribution, and the community under study is one of the communities that received land through the land claims process. Fourteen years after the settlement was made on this land claim in favour of the community, but the government and other stakeholders with vested interest in coastal tourism have not delivered on the promise made to the local community to provide them with low cost housing and to develop a coastal resort that was to benefit this community through profit sharing and in other ways. Previous studies have been conducted on other communities with a similar experience but no study has been carried out to understand the experiences of Nonoti Beach Community from their own perspective as a significant stakeholder as well as from the perspective of other stakeholders with a stake in coastal tourism. The objective of this study is to investigate the level of participation of the local community in coastal tourism and to assess the strategies in terms of skills development as well as strategies to assist them as new land owners to live sustainably on restored land. The role of various stakeholders to give post-settlement support and to ensure that land ownership through restoration results in sustainable livelihoods, leading to poverty eradication is also assessed. The policies regulating coastal tourism are also evaluated to find out if they enhance or limit the local community participation and, lastly, the model is proposed to assist in improving local community participation, thereby ensuring that the benefits accruing to them are maximized. This study is anchored on the sustainable livelihoods framework, the Stakeholder Theory, the Social Exchange Theory and the Common Property Resource Theory. This study was conducted using a mixed method approach and data was collected using in-depth interviews, focus groups and questionnaires in order to have a varied and in-depth understanding of the phenomenon under study. The participants in this study were the members of the local community, which is predominantly black and two adjacent communities that are predominantly white to compare the understanding of tourism as well as the awareness of marine and coastal governance. The other participants that were sampled are the government agencies, the district municipality, the democratically elected leadership and tourism enterprises operating around Nonoti Beach. The findings of this study show that the various stakeholders’ interests are often times conflicting, and this study recommends that various stakeholders come out with a coordinated plan to create a balance between their conflicting interests for the benefit of the local coastal resources, the local community and the local cultures. This study proves that the level of understanding of coastal tourism and associated benefits amongst the local community is limited, and as much as the land was restored back to the local community, but they were not fully capacitated to live sustainably on this land. It was also discovered that South Africa has adequate policies regulating coastal tourism and associated marine environments, but the greatest challenge lies with their implementation. The findings above are all contradictory to sustaining livelihoods. Since this is a PhD study, a model of local community participation is proposed, based on the gaps that were identified in the existing community participation models as well as gaps in the policy regulating marine resources and coastal tourism in the study area. The proposed model serves as part of the researcher’s recommendations for enhancing local community participation in coastal tourism to ensure that maximum benefits accrue to them, consequently, leading to sustainable livelihoods.