Livelihoods and ecological infrastructure interventions: What are the benefits for workers involved?

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Sheona Shackleton

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Ecologists, hydrologist, and restoration scientists in South Africa have contributed substantially to the knowledge on how interventions in ecological infrastructure, such as alien clearing and wetland restoration, can increase surface water flows, groundwater infiltration, and water quality with additional benefits for disaster risk reduction (floods, droughts and fires). Much less research exists on the socio-economic benefits of these interventions. Although scholarly efforts have hypothesized that the interventions can support livelihoods (the capabilities, assets, and activities required for a means of living) in multiple ways, empirical evidence on the linkages remains limited. In short, the literature mentions that interventions might provide livelihood benefits both directly (e.g. job creation) and indirectly (e.g. reliable access downstream to sufficient and clean water). Interventions might also enhance livelihood diversification, strengthening and providing development opportunities for economic sectors such as sustainable agriculture, agri-tourism and eco-tourism, the development of new value chains based on cleared biomass, restoration-related activities such as plant nurseries, and enhanced agricultural production. This paper reports on the empirically examined livelihood outcomes of ecological infrastructure interventions (primarily clearing of alien species) for those people employed by a variety of projects. Drawing on household surveys (n=150) conducted with workers across two districts and 4 municipalities in the Western Cape, we examined people’s motivations for getting involved in the projects, the more direct benefits (such as new income and consumption opportunities provided by the projects), and other less obvious outcomes, such as increasing social networks, new skills, and decreasing crime rates.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration