The benefits and burdens of living beside the Cederberg Wilderness Area

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

A great deal is riding on conservation efforts of the twenty-first century. In an era of extinction rates one thousand times faster than ever before, protected areas have emerged as the most widely used tool available to conservationists to curb the loss of species (Child, 2004; Jepson & Ladle, 2010) . The number and extent of protected areas has increased dramatically over the past century, and their future growth is guaranteed by international and national policies (Brockington et al., 2008). The growing prevalence of protected areas on a global landscape has increased contact between communities and conservation, frequently with conflict arising as a consequence (Dowie, 2009). Increasing recognition of the impact of protected areas on local people has given rise to international consensus is that there is a dearth of knowledge surrounding these implications which needs to be addressed (Brockington et al., 2006; Igoe, 2006; West et al., 2006) . It is this gap that this study sets out to ameliorate. The overarching aim of this research was to investigate the benefits and burdens that local communities experience from living beside a protected area. Further, this study also investigated the causes of these benefits and burdens, how they were distributed between communities at a local scale, and how local perception of the protected area was influenced as a result of these experiences. The Cederberg Wilderness Area, which has a history of restricting resource use dating back to the 1890s, was selected as the protected area of interest. Of the nine neighbouring communities, consideration of the origin and similarity between communities resulted in Bosdorp and Heuningvlei adopted as representatives for the study area. Household surveys, key informant interviews, observations and documentary evidence were utilised to obtain data, and triangulation was used across methods to validate findings (Jick, 1979). Household surveys and key informant interviews were conducted over two separate field visits between March and April, 2014. In particular, the findings of this study were considered in terms of the ecosystem services framework, as the dominant theory suggested in literature surrounding the benefits and burdens that people obtain from protected areas (CBD, 1992; Government of South Africa, 2010; MA, 2005). This study found that a total of 14 beneficial uses of natural resources provided directly or indirectly by the Cederberg Wilderness Area were enjoyed by the case study communities at a local scale. The distribution of these beneficial resource uses between the two communities varied widely, with just six of the 14 uses enjoyed in both communities. In addition to income generated directly by the Cederberg Wilderness Area through conservation and indirectly through tourism, participants agreed that they received benefits in terms of aesthetics, recreation, education, and spirituality. Seven burdens were raised by participants, with all but one shared between communities. However, the less economically able of the two communities, Heuningvlei, did experience a greater number and distribution of burdens than Bosdorp, the village from which most employees of the CWA originate, and the community who receive considerably more average monthly household income. Although all participants in Bosdorp disagreed with the statement that life would be better without rules associated with the Cederberg Wilderness Area, a third of Heuningvlei participants agreed therewith. The most noteworthy observation in terms of incongruence with the literature was the extent to which both communities benefited from the protected area. The reason suggested for this observation was twofold. First, the long history of living with resource restrictions in Heuningvlei has allowed the community to adjust its norms, values and practices in order to maximise benefit from the Cederberg Wilderness Area. Second, the establishment of the Bosdorp community in close proximity to the operational offices for the Cederberg Wilderness Area has allowed residents to maximise employment and other opportunities from the protected area. In order to ascertain the causes of the observations mentioned above, the findings were framed in terms of the ecosystem services framework. This framework was subsequently found to be ineffective in identifying these causes. However, all observations left unexplained by the ecosystem services framework were explained by adopting Access Theory (Ribot & Peluso, 2003). This highlighted the important role the communities played in realising ecosystem services, and allowed for an evaluation of the appropriateness of the ecosystem services framework for incorporating social dimensions in conservation approaches. In conclusion, it was ascertained that many of the findings observed in this study were highly contextual and more often determined by the social systems in question as opposed to ecological systems. Therefore, conservation approaches that aim to achieve more resilient systems must take these social systems into consideration. It was also concluded that the current dearth of information about the social implications of protected areas limits the utility of debates surrounding the need to take these implications into consideration in conservation practices, and poses a potential fatal flaw to conservation practices based on false assumptions of social systems. This study ends by calling for further research on this matter in order to achieve management approaches that result in resilient biodiversity conservation.

Includes bibliographical references