Resource Tenure and Power Relations in Community Wildlife Contexts: The case of the Mkambati area on the wild coast of South Africa
Through a case study of the Mkambati area in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, this paper analyses prospects for CWM for communities who neighbour Mkambati Nature Reserve. In this area, an ambitious Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) project, which hinges around eco-tourism, and with a significant component of community participation, has been proposed. While there is as yet, no focused CWM initiative at Mkambati, authorities responsible for the existing nature reserve have made gestures in that direction in accordance with international trends. While the reserve is important for local livelihoods, this is predominantly through illegal use rather than structured participation in conservation based enterprises.~Community wildlife projects must be contextualized within broader resource tenure systems (tenure being defined as ‘the bundle of rights and duties governing access to and control over resources’). In Mkambati, the history of settlement by and dispossession of the nature reserve land from the local communities poses the initial resource tenure struggle that has continued to this day. These resource tenures are continuously being renegotiated, influenced by power dynamics and the multi-layered struggles between diverse sets of actors including the villagers, land rights organisations, traditional leaders and institutional groupings located at regional, provincial and national levels.~This paper argues that wildlife management must always be seen in these larger contexts, and that the prospects for successful community based schemes will depend crucially on how wildlife tenure articulates with other resource tenures, on how it impacts on rural livelihoods considered holistically, and on the relationships that exist between local and non-local institutions. The evidence from Mkambati contradicts the argument that the main actors lack the capacity to make CWM initiatives work. What matters more is whether they perceive the necessary incentives and have the social and political will and skill to succeed in CWM.