Trust-based relationships between parks and communities : a case study of the Obonjaneni community and the Royal Natal Park in the Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal.
Tsvuura, Susan Maira.
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The study was conducted in the Amazizi Traditional Administrative Council Area, in the Obonjaneni community, which is the closest community to the Royal Natal Park, KwaZulu-Natal. The aim of the research was to evaluate how trust-based relationships can affect the ability of protected area managers to meet the objective of biodiversity conservation. The objectives of the study involved determining the nature and basis of the current relationship between communities and park authorities in the Royal Natal Park; determining the resilience of their relationship and commenting on how these relationships might be better developed. Data collection was undertaken using focus groups from the community; key informant interviews with Park authorities (represented by the Officer in Charge), the Community Conservation Officer, and the Tribal Authority (represented by the inkosi). Three dimensions of trust, adapted from Grunig and Hon (1999), were used as a conceptual framework in investigating the extent to which trust can be assessed in the case study. The dimensions of trust are: integrity, competence, and dependability. The researcher found that there is no forum for the exchange of ideas where the Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) authority can act to address community concerns and facilitate the formulation of greater levels of trust. Several issues came up during data collection which showed that all the three dimensions of trust were under serious threat. There was inadequate communication amongst all the parties involved. Misunderstanding and the lack of adequate communication are key threats to trust between these parties. Findings draw attention to deficiencies in the competence and dependability of all parties and in the ability to develop and maintain trust-based relationships. In order to develop a better relationship between the community of Obonjaneni and the Royal Natal Park authorities, it is recommended that the Park involves the community members of Obonjaneni, who are the interested and affected party, in decision-making processes that directly affect them. This entails the formation of a forum for the exchange of ideas and one where the EKZNW authority can act to address community concerns – and where the community can voice its concerns. Furthermore, success in meeting the main objective of the park, that of biodiversity conservation; requires recognition among all stakeholders that the Park alone cannot solve poverty and underdevelopment in the surrounding areas. Other Government Departments also need to be involved in poverty reduction. The Park also needs to continue to play its role of providing resources and improving the communication with surrounding communities: these are critical areas of competency of the park authorities. Communities, because they have different levels of understanding and capacity, need to be helped to understand issues of conservation. Sharing the same set of values, which in this case is biodiversity conservation, may be successful if people, despite issues of poverty, are made to understand the critical importance of such a conservation ethic.
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