The viability of conservation and social forestry outreach nurseries in South Africa

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dc.contributor.author Botha, Jennifer
dc.date.accessioned 2007-02-23T11:39:12Z
dc.date.available 2007-02-23T11:39:12Z
dc.date.issued 2007-02-23T11:39:12Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/2095
dc.description Student Number : 9713352V - PhD thesis - School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Studies - Faculty of Science en
dc.description.abstract Over 75 nurseries have been implemented by South African state and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in conjunction with local stakeholders over the past two decades in attempts to achieve a range of natural resource management (NRM) and social responsibility objectives. Despite occasional successes, numerous projects have failed or struggled to achieve their objectives for prolonged periods. This study aims to identify critical factors influencing the viability of outreach nurseries in South Africa through an evaluation of existing and past projects, and to assess the impact of the projects on the lives of community participants. The central questions of the study are: (i) What factors influence the survival of outreach nurseries? (ii) How did these projects affect the different stakeholders, in particular, community participants? (iii) Are outreach nurseries the best means of achieving conservation and socioeconomic goals? (iv) If so, how can project implementation be improved? Outreach nurseries are defined as decentralised nurseries that are established and managed by one or more community participants with varying degrees of support from implementing organisations. The nurseries included in this study are limited to those with NRM objectives. The key issues affecting the development of outreach projects are reviewed, starting with a brief overview of the evolution of people-centred approaches to NRM. Disentangling the complex inter-related political, socioeconomic and environmental factors influencing the development of even small-scale projects such as outreach nurseries is challenging at both research and implementation levels. A model adapted from Choucri (1999) is presented to facilitate the assessment of projects and the assumptions on which they are based by deconstructing the key dimensions of sustainability: ecology, economic activity, political behaviour, governance and institutional performance. An evaluation of 65 South African outreach nurseries was initially conducted. Biophysical problems such as a lack of water, inadequate infrastructure, poor soils, insufficient space and steep slopes were commonly experienced. Unlike small-scale nurseries in India and other parts of Africa, which are often implemented to meet subsistence needs, South African projects frequently include financial objectives to enable the enterprise to become independent of external funding and generate incomes for community participants. Protracted business difficulties were experienced by 68% of the nurseries. Apart from struggling to develop steady markets, nurseries were often located far from markets and were hampered by inadequate transport, pricing difficulties and limited marketing communications. They were also situated in low-income areas where residents have limited spending power. Few thorough viability studies had been carried out and business management skills were restricted, both amongst community participants and practitioners. Ten outreach nurseries with differing profiles and conservation objectives were then assessed in depth. The achievement of financial and NRM objectives was largely sector dependent. These objectives were usually compatible in greening and conservation rehabilitation programmes, facilitating their attainment. Six nurseries aimed to implement greening activities either through their own efforts at local level or by supplying trees to implementing organisations responsible for regional or national greening programmes. Local level greening initiatives included the planting of trees and ornamentals into school grounds and/or and the surrounding community, the establishment and maintenance of a park, the conservation of remnant patches of indigenous vegetation and encouraging local residents to plant indigenous species. At national level, urban municipalities involved in greening initiatives report an 80% survival rates of transplanted seedlings but high mortalities are frequently experienced in rural areas, mainly due to lack of aftercare and seedlings being eaten by livestock. However, the rate of transplanting of distributed seedlings is frequently unknown. A monitoring plan needs to be designed and implemented in conjunction with recipient organisations, to ascertain whether resources are being effectively used and identify shortcomings. Two nurseries supplied seedlings to gold mining rehabilitation programmes. In total, 580 000 seedlings were transplanted onto 437 ha. of gold mining tailings dams and polluted land between 2002 and 2004. One nursery sold just under 35 000 seedlings to this sector in 2005/6. Initial restoration results have been encouraging, with vegetation on some gold tailings dams establishing so well that a new challenge has arisen: viz. encouraging the neighbouring community to harvest at sustainable levels. A nursery established to supply seedlings to alien plant and wetland rehabilitation programmes closed, but this sector has a similar potential to the gold mining rehabilitation programmes to contribute to biodiversity conservation and enhance ecosystem services whilst contributing to local livelihoods. Both require high volumes of inexpensive, fast growing and resilient seedlings. An endangered species nursery had not yet achieved anticipated conservation returns eight years after its inception, mainly due to an extremely difficult sociopolitical local terrain. Incidents of illegal harvesting of a wild population growing near the project site had declined, but conservation officials were concerned that a general increase in the illegal wildlife trade in South Africa would further pressurize this and other species, for example, those valued for their medicinal properties. Medicinal plant nurseries struggled to simultaneously achieve conservation and socioeconomic objectives. Despite concerted efforts for 6-10 years, none achieved their primary goal at even the scale of the participating group viz. to reduce harvesting levels of wild plant populations. Community participants from two nurseries cultivated medicinal plants at the project site and in their home gardens. Approximately 235 medicinal species were cultivated by 31 participants from one nursery (6-64 species per garden; mean+SE=36.5+2.9), but most people continued to use the same volumes of wild collected material as they had prior to the start of the project. However, six years after the last consistent inputs to the project, several influential traditional healers reported that they still cultivated sufficient volumes to meet their needs, no longer harvested from the wild and seldom purchased plant products from markets. Although this is a promising start, efforts need to be considerably scaled up if regional harvesting levels are to be substantially reduced. Harvesting levels in the other project increased due to beneficiating activities, although practitioners urged the group to harvest leaves rather than bark. A third nursery attained financial viability by marketing its products to the horticultural sector. Traditional healers could not afford the prices asked for plants. The impacts of outreach nurseries on community participants depended largely on whether objectives were achieved, whether costs disproportionately outweighed benefits and the nature of relations between participants and staff from implementing organisations. Although non-monetary benefits were important, almost all community participants aspired to earn financial benefits. However, it took 5-10 years for three nurseries to start generating regular financial returns and only two had generated enough to pay participants consistently. Only 9% of the participants who had been involved in projects from the start derived an income. Costs such as time, money and labour substantially outweighed material benefits. Despite high drop out rates, many people persisted as they strongly wanted the project to succeed and feared forfeiting the effort and resources that they had already invested. Participants from projects that had attained their goals gained self confidence, personal satisfaction and respect within the community. Increased knowledge was highly valued, as was local access to seedlings and, in some projects, enhanced food security. However, many participants felt that they had derived no benefits. Material, social and emotional costs were high, particularly where promised funding and support had not materialised. A rapid-results approach was suggested to boost benefits within a reasonable time frame. There was a distinct differentiation in the nature of social relations between community participants and implementing organisations from different sectors. The forestry sector succeeded in balancing task, group maintenance (sound working relationships) and individual needs in most projects, with community participants actively managing or participating in all but one. A regional conservation agency experienced difficulties in achieving individual and group maintenance needs, but had accomplished task needs. Steps had been taken to address the former. Community participants were actively involved in decision making at the time of the interviews. The national conservation agency had not provided support to outreach nurseries in two different provinces, despite being the primary supporting agency in one instance. A practitioner from an NGO displayed group maintenance attributes such as caring and consideration towards community participants, but neither task nor individual needs were met. Problems here appeared to be due to a lack of development experience. Prolonged restructuring of state organisations negatively affected some projects through high staff turnovers, fluctuating policy environments, and low morale and job uncertainty of staff. The operational styles of individuals and supporting organisations strongly influenced the process, as did the socioeconomic and political environment. Authoritarian personalities or organisations exacerbated conflicts while those that operated in a spirit of cooperation managed to resolve differences. Common causes of conflicts between community participants included scarce resources, perceived distributive injustices, jealousies and lack of, or confusion over, accountability. Conflicts spiraled into violence in two projects, and practitioners were threatened with violence in two. Fostering cooperative relationships and operational environments requires a substantial effort from the outset. Ongoing education for both staff and community participants in effectively managing conflict is vital to improve the productivity and longevity of projects, and can sometimes contribute to improved relations in the wider community. This study has highlighted the constraints of outreach nurseries in contributing to the well-being of local stakeholders, particularly when basic development and business fundamentals are not adhered to. Alternate NRM and income generating strategies need to be evaluated during planning as a nursery may not be the best means of achieving either of these. Although small scale and relatively straightforward compared with many ICDPs, outreach nurseries usually require substantial support, including a range of technical, business, and development services. Implementing organisations need to realistically evaluate potential costs and risks to community participants at the outset and determine whether they have the resources and commitment to provide the levels of support that are likely to be required in a project of this nature. Short-term benefits need to be incorporated into planning, and costs mitigated where possible. Project time frames need to be reconsidered, as practitioners estimate that it takes 5–10 years for nurseries to start meeting objectives, and donors and implementing agencies frequently operate on 2–3-year project cycles. Progress needs to be continuously monitored to enable institutions and community participants to adapt to changing conditions and ensure that the spectrum of objectives are being achieved. Cooperative working environments need to be actively fostered and conflict management skills developed, particularly in difficult sociopolitical terrains. en
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dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject wildlife enterprises en
dc.subject integrated conservation and development projects en
dc.subject ICDPs en
dc.title The viability of conservation and social forestry outreach nurseries in South Africa en
dc.type Thesis en


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