Change the world

Sustainability Research Unit George Campus

11/12/2018

Natural resource managers are often ill equipped to cope with the complexity of conflicts in and around protected areas under their care. The Sustainability Research Unit at the Nelson Mandela University responded to this need and hosted a training workshop on 29 & 30 November 2018.

The complex and dynamic nature of protected areas are common sites for wicked conflicts which are value laden and difficult to resolve (Mason et al. 2017). Protected areas are dynamic social ecological systems driven by global trends such as climate change, overpopulation, poverty and environmental degradation, where boundaries, governance structures, rules and norms are constantly changing. Natural resource managers often find themselves needing to reconcile conservation objectives and a diversity of views, values and needs in and around protected areas, nature reserves and private lands. The range of objectives, levels of protection, restriction on utilization and power in decision making can result in conflict between resource manager, neighbouring communities and other stakeholders. Conflict can undermine environmental protection and inhibit achieving conservation goals (Soliku and Schraml, 2018). 

Natural resource managers are often ill equipped to cope with the complexity of conflicts in and around protected areas under their care. The Sustainability Research Unit at the Nelson Mandela University responded to this need and hosted a training workshop aimed at developing the capacity of natural resource managers to deal with conflict in and around protected areas about the natural resources and the benefits they produce.  Through a highly participatory and collaborative learning approach the workshop drew on participant experiences and real-world settings to help attendees develop the necessary conflict resolution and stakeholder engagement skills to cope with conflict within their own context. 

The two-day workshop brought participants to the George Campus on the 29th and 30th of November 2018. Dr. Bianca Currie, Director of the SRU co facilitated the event with Prof. Lyn Snodgrass a member of the SRU and Head of the Department of Political and Conflict Studies at the Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth Campus. Dr. Robin Bourgeois an Agricultural Economist at CIRAD and Futurist at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation joined the team as a guest facilitator. Two guest speakers included Dr. Chloe Guerbois, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the SRU and Ms. Bronwyn Botha the buffer zone co-ordinator for the Mountain Zebra-Camdeboo Protected Environment.

Prof. Snodgrass helped participants to understand and map the actors and drivers of conflict on day one. Open discussions with the group included the challenges of working in the South African context and the value laden nature of conflict. On day two Dr. Currie presented a session on social learning and the principles of stakeholder engagement. Dr. Bourgeois introduced the group to a method of using the future in conservation to renew perspectives of the present and to open up alternative options and pathways. He spoke of identifying tipping points to help connect the future to the present and facilitated a collaborative exercise to develop participants’ future literacy. Dr. Guerbois spoke of her experiences in research related to human wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe and South Africa and Ms Botha described her experience of bringing together a diversity of stakeholders each with their own interests and values to form the Mountain Zebra-Camdeboo Protected Environment.

The workshop was well received by participants who expressed how worthwhile, “extremely interesting and lively” the workshop was. They expressed how the training had changed their thinking around conflict and provided them with a suite of tools they can use in their work context. Participants gained new insights from the conflict mapping exercise and found the futures mapping exercise valuable.