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Institutional change and ecosystem dynamics in the communal areas around Mt Coke State Forest, Eastern Cape, South Africa

by Cundill, G.

Abstract (Summary)
Through a combination of theoretical discussion and case study analysis from two villages in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, this thesis explores the relationship between institutional change and ecosystem dynamics through a multi-scale approach that combines local and scientific knowledge. Several conceptual approaches were combined in this study. These included; the Resilience perspective, the Sustainable Rural Livelihoods approach, the Millennium Assessment framework and principles, and the Environmental Entitlements approach. Various participatory research techniques were employed which combined with GIS technologies, existing data sets, and historical records. Common pool resource areas are social spaces, where local values attached to resources are institutionally mediated, politically nuanced, economically interpreted and historically situated. Political driving forces at various scales have played a disproportionate role in local level institutional functioning in the case study area. In particular, inappropriate state-lead interventions into land use planning have weakened local level institutions, and have reduced the ability of the linked social-ecological system to cope with change and uncertainty. People and ecosystems become more vulnerable when driving forces such as political upheaval, economic depression and drought over-lap. However, rural people are not mere spectators in the face of these driving forces; they respond both reactively and proactively to ensure resilience to change and uncertainty. Ecosystems at Mt Coke play a key role during times of crisis in rural livelihoods. These ecosystems have undergone various short-term cyclical changes largely in response to rainfall fluctuations, and some longer-term changes linked to political events and trends that have affected management practices and local institutions over time. Orthodox ecological interpretations of ecosystem change appear to ignore four key factors identified in this study: 1) the role of institutions in shaping access to resources, 2) the demand for resources in rural livelihoods, 3) the dynamic interaction between social and natural systems, and 4) the interaction between social and natural systems across scales of analysis. The future of common pool resource management lies in the combination of local and scientific knowledge through an adaptive management approach that encourages learning and adaptation in local level institutional structures.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:environmental science

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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