Biodiversity conservation and land rights in South Africa : whither the farm dwellers?
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa is unique in that its globally significant biodiversity, which is under major threat, coexists with an apartheid history of dispossession that produced a starkly unequal land ownership pattern and widespread rural poverty. It is in this context that the post-apartheid government must fulfil constitutional and international obligations to safeguard environmental assets as well as undertake land reform benefiting the previously dispossessed. Consequently, there is a continuous challenge of reconciling complex and often conflicting relationships between poverty, inequitable access to resources, and the protection of biodiversity. Current efforts to conserve the Cape Floral Kingdom emphasise partnerships between private landowners and existing nature reserves to promote sustainable utilisation of biodiversity. This paper explores the potential impact of this approach on farm dwellers, and how changing land use may affect their land tenure rights and livelihoods. Primary research was undertaken in the Baviaanskloof, where this model is in an early stage of implementation. The paper identifies systemic and structural tensions in current attempts to reconcile biodiversity conservation and farm dwellers’ interests, and documents issues of process and principle that could become important in the future. In doing so, it highlights the influence of on-farm power relations and highly complex institutional arrangements in determining the real extent of participation by affected farm dwellers and the efficacy of social safeguard policies. Findings also caution against an over-reliance on ecotourism as the major occupation and argues instead for support to multiple livelihood strategies.