Southern Forests: a Journal of Forest Science

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Perceptions of forest resource use and management in two village communities in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa

NM Gugushe, IM Grundy, F Theron, PW Chirwa


Rural communities in South Africa are similar to communities in other parts of the developing world in terms of their use and management of natural forest resources as a means of sustaining their livelihoods. Participatory surveys were conducted with communities living near a communal woodland and a State Forest in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, to determine the use and extent of management of woody resources under different tenure regimes. The results showed that all the respondents considered fuelwood as the most important wood product, followed by fencing material. More respondents living next to the State Forest felt that they could still easily find the products they needed from the forest compared to those living next to communal woodland, but respondents in both study areas believed they would not be able to easily find these products in future. Neither group was aware of current or future management strategies for the woody resources nor any well-defined natural resource management authorities at either village committee or government level. There were differing opinions as to who should be in charge of woodland and forest management in future, depending on the villagers' experience of government practices in the past. This study concluded that rural communities in the area will continue to use the forest and woodland resources in future, mainly for fuelwood, fencing, medicine and traditional ceremonies. Participatory resource management strategies for the two areas would encourage sustainable ways of using and managing the forest and woodland resources, including local cultivation of the most preferred indigenous tree and shrub species for the production of medicinal products, poles and other wooden commodities.

Keywords: community participation; forest products; natural resource management; participatory research; rural communities; South Africa; sustainable use

Southern Forests 2008, 70(3): 247–254

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