Restoration and historicity: Practicing the long view with practitioners and communities to lay the groundwork for transformation within restoration

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Jan Graf

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The transition to democracy saw the emergence of large scale state sponsored and coordinated restoration programmes such as Working for Water in South Africa. Explicitly coupled to socio-economic development objectives, these programmes reflected a willingness by natural resource management (NRM) policy-makers to confront and respond to historical socio-political injustices and their legacies. Translating these social and environmental objectives within individual restoration projects required local level practitioners and stakeholders to additionally confront the unique and nuanced histories of their local contexts within the immediate post-apartheid era. We report on reflections by practitioners on the collapse of efforts to establish the Blyde National Park (in the Olifants Catchment), and particularly the unsuccessful attempts to implement comprehensive and integrated restoration projects within it. Practitioners from an interconnected group of local NRM practices (including restoration, water, forestry, and conservation), highlighted the need to collectively re-define and transform institutional arrangements in collaboration with local communities, especially in relation to changing organizational mandates, capacity, and landownership. This co-enquiry into local pioneering NRM practices, although not fully complete, has supported the emergence of agency and collective action, as well as building a community of practice. Cultural Historical Activity Theory provided a valuable framework for the above process and allowed the re-thinking and re-modelling of the restoration practice as a learning-action space. Finally, we advocate for adequate attention to various social dimensions (including organizational, socio-economic and socio-political) within which the bio-physical and technical aspects of restoration projects are nested, in order to ensure sustainable and just resilience building.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration