Challenges Facing a Community Structure to Implement CBNRM in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

by Michelle Cocks, Anthony Dold and Isla Grundy 


In most developing countries, community based natural resource management (CBNRM) initiatives have been adopted in an attempt to address the issue of environmental sustainability. This has largely come about due to an increasing recognition of the ineffectiveness of the state to achieve such sustainability. Within the South African context, recent policies have been drafted that aim to achieve these outcomes, which strongly articulate the need for the participation of local people in the management of natural resources both within communal areas and on state-owned land.

The objectives of new policies, however, are not being met in the Eastern Cape of South Africa for the following key reasons: the insufficient recognition of the impact of past historical and political upheavals experienced within the former homelands’ situation; the government’s inability to process land applications; the government’s lack of ability and capacity to implement these policies; and frustratingly high levels of hierarchy at both the local and national level. The Masakane community, a group of former farm workers from the former Ciskei homeland in South Africa, are attempting to implement CBNRM initiatives. The Masakane case study reveals the urgent need to develop, implement and enforce new institutional and managerial arrangements, because without such arrangements state policies are unlikely to be implemented at the grassroots level.

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Michelle Cocks of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University in South Africa, has had a long-standing interest in resource use and management. She recently completed a medicinal plant survey in the Eastern Cape to identify the demand for various species in the medicinal plant trade. Her recent work also includes a land tenure reform project to assist former farm workers acquire land for resettlement and farming purposes.

Anthony Dold is the Assistant Curator of the Schonland Herbarium at Rhodes University Botany Department in Grahamstown, South Africa. His recent work includes the taxonomy of the Mesembryanthemaceae and Hyacinthaceae; the documentation of indigenous plant use and natural resource management; ethnobotanical training and environmental education programmes; and environmental impact assessments and scoping reports.

Isla Grundy is a Senior Lecturer in Community Forestry at the University of Stellenbosch (on secondment from the University of Oxford), and is the Project Leader of a Rural Development Forestry Education and Training Programme in South Africa. She has recently been involved in developing a Community Forestry programme at the University of Stellenbosch, which includes a new undergraduate degree in Community Forestry (B.For.) as well as a post-graduate programme (Masters and Doctoral studies). She also lectures in Community Forestry at University of Stellenbosch and Saasveld Forestry College, George, and helps build capacity in community forestry training in South Africa, primarily at the University of Stellenbosch and Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry in the Eastern Cape.