Decolonization and democratization of livelihoods: Restoring human-land relations through co-management of natural resources

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Reuben Thifhulufhelwi

Publication Date:

Learning processes in environmental management are often oriented to change and transformation and frequently involve the emergence of new forms of human activity. Nevertheless, little is known about how such change can be supported, especially in non-formal learning processes. We report on insights from the natural resource management (NRM) resilience building project in the highly biodiverse Legalameetse nature reserve in Limpopo province, South Africa. The paper explores how the use of cultural historic activity theory (CHAT) can mediate transformative learning for supporting co-management of protected areas. This paper reveals how deep historic injustices such as colonization and apartheid regimes have eroded the custodianship of NRM from local land users and communities in South Africa. The investigative question was how can the use of CHAT, in an expansive learning process support people to collectively (re)conceptualize and address the intricate interplay of social, economic, political, and cultural factors that drive environmental degradation? Guided by systemic thinking and sociocultural traditions of CHAT, the paper shares novel ways of mediating learning processes with communities that have successfully (re)claimed their land and that are learning to co-manage it with government agencies for conservation and livelihood benefits. In conclusion, the paper argues for developing and using mediation tools that recognize deep socio-cultural and historical knowledge as key drivers in developing sustainable NRM practices for resilient landscapes and livelihoods. Furthermore, developing and using mediation tools should be conceived not only as an interpretive process, but also as collaborative authoring of events and frameworks for understanding socio-ecological complexity.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration