Mind the gap : People-centered biodiversity conservation in policy and practice in Cape Town, South Africa.

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Abstract: Approaches to conserving biodiversity have traditionally left humans out of the picture. However, to separate between humans and protected areas has become increasingly criticized for being ethically problematic and ineffective. As a result, the political landscape for how biodiversity should be conserved has changed during the last 30 years. Instead of exclusive conservation practices, there is a request for so-called people-centered practices that tackle development and conservation jointly. However, several studies show a gap between public policies with people-centered ambitions and what is happening on areas assigned for biodiversity conservation. This study aims to understand if people-centered ideas are converted into conservation practices at four nature reserves in Cape Town, South Africa. The study also hopes to explain if the public-civil partnership Cape Flats Nature (CFN) is a useful arrangement in order to convert people-centered ambitions into practices. Using an ideal type analysis, conducting informant interviews and gathering documents, the findings suggest that people-centered practices are found at all four nature reserves. However, there are significant differences and the two nature reserves partnering with CFN have the most people-centered practices. In these cases, human well being is, for example, viewed to be an integral part of the objectives at nature reserves and fences that tend to keep people out are focused on to a lesser extent than in the other nature reserves that are not partnering with CFN. Even though there are no blueprint solutions, instruments such as CFN can be a useful arrangement for narrowing the gap between people-centered ambitions and conservation practices. However, further studies on for example social network analysis focusing on the role of bridging organizations would perhaps strengthen such claims.

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