User attitudes to conservation and management options for the Ongoye Forest Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Indigenous forest resources are valuable to communities situated around them as they provide many different resources for their livelihoods. South Africa has only 0.5% of indigenous forest cover and most forests are surrounded by local communities who depend on them for resources. At Ongoye the forest was widely (91% of households) used for fuelwood. Community members denied harvesting the forest for either building or fencing poles, claiming they bought Eucalyptus poles from suppliers in the community. However, the harvesting intensities of pole size stems confirm that the user community does harvest timber from the forest. There is a high demand for fuelwood and pole-size stems are harvested not only for building but are cut and left to dry for later use as fuelwood. Although the harvesting intensity was greater than users were prepared to admit to, harvesting levels are thought to be sustainable. Local communities did not trade in products extracted from the forest. The use of resources was only for subsistence purposes, and therefore, forest resources were only valuable to users with respect to providing support to local livelihoods. Ensuring the protection and conservation of forest resources is critical for the survival of the user communities that are dependent upon them. Most local communities are not knowledgeable about managing forest resources adjacent to them, and the management of forest resources at Ongoye is currently in the hands of the state and also the influence of the Inkosi (local tribal chief). As part of the process of democratization post 1994, the government is devolving the management of natural resources to local communities. Several models of management institutions have been proposed and tested including community forest management (CFM), state forest management (SFM), and participatory forest management (PFM). Current trends are towards participatory management institutions. Using questionnaires, I determined that users preferred PFM over both SFM and CFM. However, the local community was in favour of more state involvement in the PFM than expected. Given a choice between CFM and SFM, the user community was more favourably disposed toward SFM. This was because they viewed CFM as vulnerable to resulting in open access to resources without any control. The devolution of powers to local communities can create problems in local governance. For most areas surrounding forest resources, traditional authorities are the important 'governing' leaders. In South Africa, events post 1994 have created tensions between democratically elected and hereditary governance institutions. On the one hand democratic institutions are supposed to be created at the local level, and on the other the constitution recognizes the existence of hereditary institutions. There is a power struggle over who the legitimate authority at the local level is between democratically elected councilors and chiefs. At Ongoye, the local chief was very powerful and had strong views on the ownership and control of Ongoye. He had a positive influence on maintaining current low to moderate levels of use of forest resources. However, because there are several dangers associated with concentrating power over management of natural resources in one individual, I recommend that a participatory natural resources management institution be developed that acknowledges the important role of the Inkosi, but also tempers his influence, so that continuity of management principles is maintained should traditional leadership changes hands.
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