Conservation and community in the new South Africa: A case study of the Mahushe Shongwe Game Reserve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The idealization of natural landscapes and peoples during colonialism, coupled with the popularity of sustainable development in the postcolonial era, has contributed to the expansion of conservation planning throughout the African continent. Concerns surrounding the promotion of national and international conservation agendas at the expense of local livelihood needs have generated interest in community conservation projects that attempt to include local participation and knowledge in natural resource management. The early excitement associated with community conservation has waned in light of recent assessments that it has been unsuccessful in meeting its ecological and social goals. This parallels other research that suggests communities are understood in generic or homogenous ways that influence how these initiatives are understood. Using a case study of the Mahushe Shongwe Game Reserve, this paper evaluates how rural households access environmental and economic resources to produce livelihoods, and how these access patterns impact their views of the project. It is argued that there are significant livelihood variations within the community that shape the ways households engage with, and benefit from, conservation planning. Rather than strictly viewing Mahushe Shongwe as a constraint to environmental resource access or site for limited employment, community members identify a number of benefits from its existence including education and development opportunities. Additionally, transformations in governance systems in the region impact community views of the project since younger residents are less likely to engage with the Matsamo Tribal Authority, which participates in managing the reserve. The consequence is that conservation has various impacts and meanings within a specific community that remain tied to the livelihood and governance systems being renegotiated in the post-apartheid era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-219
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Conservation and community in the new South Africa: A case study of the Mahushe Shongwe Game Reserve'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this