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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2005

Perspectives on local environmental security, exemplified by a rural South African village

Haag, Fredrik; Hajdu, Flora


This paper analyzes the human-nature interaction in a village in rural South Africa. It discusses preconditions, perceptions, and consequences of natural resource use, and places these findings into a regional and historical context. Applying an interdisciplinary perspective, the study uses interviews, questionnaires, remote sensing, and participatory mapping to analyze land cover changes and local perceptions of the environment. The study area is located in a former homeland (Transkei), a setting where well-recorded conflicts in the human-nature sphere have previously been triggered by population pressure, apartheid policies, and other historical, political, and social reasons. A small-scale and subjective conceptualization of environmental security is used as an approach to analyze local livelihood strategies in a selected village. The results indicate that the environment is not the highest priority in local survival strategies. Instead, formal and informal jobs and governmental grants are the most important security strategies. There are thus no major conflicts resulting from the interaction between the local population and the natural resources in this specific area. Explanations to this pattern can partly be found in historical contexts, which include apartheid policies, re-localizations, and a system of migrant labor. The study also suggests that general truths about a region such as Transkei might be misleading in specific localities. For relevant and successful environmental management and development planning however, it is crucial that decision-makers be able to get a clear picture of local situations and adjust their plans accordingly.


environmental security; natural resources; local perspectives; interdisciplinary studies; livelihood strategies; South Africa

Published in

Environmental Management
2005, volume: 36, number: 4, pages: 483-494
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Haag, Fredrik
Uppsala University
Linköping University

UKÄ Subject classification

Human Geography
Physical Geography

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)