Policy Outcomes on Water-Related Ecosystem Services in an Agricultural Landscape in South Africa

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Abstract: Water governance in South Africa is challenged by natural as well as socially constructed water scarcity. 15 years after the transition from Apartheid to the new democratic era, this paper shows that water resources are still distributed along racial lines. Based on a case study in rural KwaZulu Natal, results indicate that outcomes of water policies which aimed at redressing historic inequalities have not yet been able to create the expected benefits for the disadvantaged black farming community. This paper uses an ecosystem service (ESS) approach to assess how those benefits that are derived from different water-related ecosystem services (WES) developed in the smallholder community and its adjacent commercial farming area. The change in the distribution of water for household use, water for irrigation, water flow regulation and water for scenic beauty is further discussed in regards to its response to water policies on local and national level. Hereby, the paper addresses the research need to provide insight into ESS responses to policy outcomes, which in turn is expected to reveal challenges and opportunities for policy makers to incorporate the complex yet important interactions between social and ecological systems into their decision making. Practically, this paper contributes by making gaps in ESS utilization between smallholder and commercial farmers explicit. Focusing on the material aspects of equality, i.e. the redistribution of water resources is argued to be neither feasible nor unequivocally desirable in the near future. Rather, I encourage capacity building to increase possibilities of the smallholder farmers to effectively use existing resources.

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