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North Carolina State University (2014)

Traditional Natural Resource Use and Modern Lifestyles in the Post-Apartheid Era ; Age and Attitudinal Changes in Bushbuckridge, South Africa

Wiener, Sarah Susanne

Titre : Traditional Natural Resource Use and Modern Lifestyles in the Post-Apartheid Era ; Age and Attitudinal Changes in Bushbuckridge, South Africa.

Auteur : Wiener, Sarah Susanne

Université de soutenance : North Carolina State University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) Forestry and Environmental Resources 2014

As the end of Apartheid brought much needed reforms to South Africa, many previously oppressed black South Africans embraced their newfound freedom, democracy, and equal rights across all facets of life, including household use of natural resources. These changes both reflect and contribute to socio-political progress, but they also affect the communal woodlands that are central to the livelihoods of many rural South Africans. Communal woodlands provide fuelwood and other non-timber forest products (NTFPs), such as fruit, traditional medicine, and building materials. Research suggests that since the end of Apartheid, these woodlands have been increasingly over-exploited, resulting in shortages of NTFPs including fuelwood. Weakened institutional governance of natural resources have facilitated this exploitation, despite increased availability of substitute modern goods and a massive rural electrification program. The youth are commonly perceived as the generation most dramatically affected by democratization and most responsible for over-exploitation of the woodlands. The aim of this study is to determine if attitudes towards woodlands and use of fuelwood are significantly different among youth compared to middle-aged and elderly people, and the implications of any differences. Data were collected in three villages of Bushbuckridge, South Africa. In addition to a household survey, all individuals in those same households were interviewed. Semi structured open-ended interviews were also conducted with members of the same communities who had not been interviewed and were not members of any of the interviewed households. Survey and interview data are analyzed to obtain insights on two main themes : (1) attitudes towards woodlands, woodland use, and woodland regulation, and (2) preferences and choices of fuelwood vs. electricity. For both themes, differences across generations are examined. All else equal, younger respondents place less importance on the woodlands than their older counterparts, and they are more likely to prefer electricity as a cooking fuel. Youth are perceived as the most likely to break woodland regulations, with middle-aged and elderly respondents saying that the youth break regulations much more often than the youth themselves admit. Additionally, all generations prefer to have regulations at the same rate. Although youth are still involved with fuelwood collection, most of them do not want to be. This reluctance, along with their lower perceived importance of woodlands, could be a contributing factor to their perceived or actual disregard for woodland regulations. The proportion of respondents who prefer to have regulations does not vary across generations. As youth age into heads of households and begin making decisions regarding household fuel and whether to harvest or purchase provisions, their attitudes and preferences will become increasingly important determinants of the fate of communal woodlands. These changes will also ultimately impact the welfare of the new generation of households ; for example, if traditional knowledge about woodlands is not passed on to the younger generation, that will limit their ability to harvest NTFPs as an economic “safety net”. If the woodlands are seen as unimportant, less care will be taken to preserve valuable species and harvest sustainably, reducing the potential value of future harvests. Thus, generational differences in attitudes will shape the challenges and changes in future natural resource consumption.


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