Evaluating the effectiveness of rangeland resting initiatives in communal grazing systems in South Africa

  • Rhian Margaret Williams

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research


    In South Africa, rangeland environments provide ecosystem services upon which many broader natural processes and millions of livelihoods depend. Against a background of environmental degradation and widespread poverty, trade-offs between different services must be carefully managed. 17% of South African rangeland is held under communal tenure, bringing unique management challenges. This thesis investigates the efficacy of Conservation Agreements (CAs) - an example of a Payments for Ecosystems Services approach - in achieving positive environmental and social outcomes within three communities in the Mvenyane region of Eastern Cape, South Africa. It seeks to establish whether areas of rangeland in these communities were successfully rested, a key tenet of these agreements. Biomass sampled from designated rested areas was compared against samples from exclosures within these rested areas. Focus groups (FG) were also conducted with local signatory institutions known as Grazing Associations (GAs) to identify factors contributing to in/effective resting. The findings show that rangeland was not effectively rested in any of the communities studied. Insights from the New Institutionalist paradigm and the broader literature were used to analyse data from focus groups and a household survey. This indicated inadequate institutional capacity to deliver management strategies required to satisfy the terms of the CAs, and limitations in the pro-social outcomes the CAs were designed to provide. In particular, the design of CAs contributed to the exclusion of marginalised groups from GAs. More broadly, a dichotomy was revealed between the market-based approach underpinning the CA arrangements, and the priorities of many rangeland users. Further research into reasons for non-participation in GAs, and into other local institutions of power, is suggested, alongside key policy recommendations.

    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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