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A systematic approach for evaluating conservation initiatives in the sustainable livelihood of the Kwasokhulu Community.

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This research develops a soft systems approach to evaluate conservation initiatives in the sustainable livelihoods framework of Kwasokhulu, and in so doing, contributes to the literature on Soft Systems Methodology (SSM). Whilst there is, in the theory of systems thinking and practice, much written on the subject of conservation in organizations worldwide, there is very little on the Kwasokhulu fisheries conservation context to promote livelihood, especially from within the soft systems paradigm. Ezemvelo-KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) is a conservation organization where natural resource management systems have been developed on a so-called conservation approach, where the focus has been on the characteristics of the conserved areas. A softer issue, which interrogates humans, and environment where conservation issues exist, has previously taken secondary position to the functionality of the system. The SSM approach as applied in this context considers conservation implementation to be complex and changing entities whose nature is repeatedly redefined by the people in it. The perception of the conservation authority is also shaped and redefined by the people in it. This research illustrates the use of SSM in relation to protected area management and sustainable livelihood. A presentation and discussion of the use of SSM as a project framework of natural resource project implementation is provided in the paper. It is contested that SSM has the potential to provide a very rich picture of social environment complexity at hand through the use of individual stakeholders‟ interviews and cognitive maps. SSM provides an opportunity for systems development reflexive learning. The empirical and dialogue processes of SSM proved a very useful tool in creating discussion about possible futures as well as in disclosing stakeholders‟ attitudes and present system constraints in Kwasokhulu (the area of research). The researcher has appreciated SSM as a participatory research methodology, but it has not provided an automatic emancipation to the stakeholders of Kwasokhulu. Other issues such as political and cultural aspects of the research area may restrict the feasibility of using participatory process. This places an ethical responsibility on the problem intervener or facilitator of the Soft Systems Methodology process. In conclusion, this research does not frame SSM as a sufficient method for solving all complex natural systems situations. Rather, it serves as a useful platform for structuring necessary learning, reflexivity, and deliberations that should be an integral part of Kwasokhulu development project management. If tabled recommendations are implemented by EKZNW, it could provide a means for participation, learning and dialogue about project content to all stakeholders.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.