Addressing poverty and local livelihoods in the context of conservation : a case study of the proposed Ngelengele Nature Reserve.
Many people in Africa, due to high levels of poverty, rely directly on natural resources and the environment for their livelihoods. Different mechanisms have been employed over the years to address poverty and local livelihoods in the context of conservation. Community Conservation Areas and the sustainable livelihood approach are examples of these mechanisms. Increasingly, these and other mechanisms have reinforced the view that unless the risks and opportunities presented by poverty to local livelihoods are addressed, many conservation efforts are bound to fail. The research reported here was based on the premise that appropriate mechanisms that explicitly address poverty and local livelihoods are a necessary prerequisite to successfully engaging local people in conservation. Such mechanisms assure the sustainability of local livelihoods and present opportunities for conservation initiatives to succeed within the context of human societies that are dependent on associated ecosystems and resources. The Maloti-Drakensberg mountains region in South Africa was the study site and the proposed Ngelengele Nature Reserve, a Community Conservation Area, was used as a case study. The amaHlubi community people constituted the study's respondents. The study was largely qualitative, drawing on both primary and secondary sources of data in the form of interviewer-administered questionnaire and documentary analysis respectively. Field observations and discussions with respondents complemented the interviews. By adopting the sustainable livelihoods framework to understand and analyse the livelihoods of the amaHlubi community, the study highlighted concerns about livelihood assets with the conclusion that there is a high dependence on natural resources mainly for domestic purposes, and in general most of the assets are non existent. The study also highlighted the level of awareness and community support towards Ngelengele Nature Reserve, as well as the reserve's implications on local livelihoods. Although some stated that the objectives of Ngelengele Nature Reserve remain unclear, the majority of respondents showed high expectations and support for the project.
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