Applying a resilience framework in the pursuit of sustainable land-use development in the Little Karoo, South Africa


Land-use management policies in rangelands have typically been top down, singularly  focussed on achieving maximum sustainable yields from ecosystems, and have generally  failed to halt land degradation. Natural resource management approaches which adopt a  more holistic outlook, focusing on the integrated nature of social and ecological systems,  appear to hold promise for sustainable land-use development, particularly when focussed on  the resilience of these systems. The objectives of this chapter are: to demonstrate the  potential of adopting a broader integrated research approach, using a resilience framework; to  examine the interconnectivity of the social-ecological system of the Little Karoo, a rangeland  area with additional focus on intensive ostrich production and lucerne cultivation along water  courses, in southern South Africa; and, to describe some future land-use and development  scenarios for this area. This approach highlighted eight external shocks that impact this  system (floods, droughts, water supply, finances, product prices, input costs, connectivity  losses and property prices). It also clarified stakeholders’ perceptions of declining agriculture  and collapse of the commercial farming community, and identified plausible government  policies that will influence this system’s trajectory – including promoting tourism, sustainable  agriculture and land-reform that addresses land ownership equity. This study not only  demonstrates how complex sustainable land-use issues become when focussing on a social ecological system, but it also shows the value of a resilience framework in logically  establishing knowledge of past trends and influences on social-ecological systems. We argue  that future sustainable land-use management of rangelands within the Little Karoo will benefit  from an integrated focus on socio-ecological system resilience.