Enterprise development and economic empowerment through estuaries
Estuaries are valuable ecological, social and economic assets that present considerable opportunities for revenue generation, particularly for disadvantaged people in rural areas, where the surrounding natural resources are often the only practical option for enterprise development. However, as a recently-published Water Research Commission (WRC) study shows, the potential for economic empowerment based on estuary services is generally underappreciated and underdeveloped. In the Eastern Cape, for example, informal observations made over ten years while conducting research on estuary management indicated that disadvantaged people living at or near estuaries were obtaining limited economic benefit from estuary resources. The main drivers of economic empowerment were resort hotels which provided employment and other business opportunities, such as horse and hiking trails, canoe trails, cultural tours, ghillies (fishing guides), bait sellers and honey production.
To address these challenges, the WRC funded a research project aimed at developing an approach to identify and develop resilient estuary-based business enterprises, by reducing the vulnerability of enterprises founded on one or more ecosystem services. The process was tested at Mngazana and Mngazi Estuaries near Port St Johns, and also for the Mbongolwane wetland system.
The study is entitled: 'An approach to estuary-based economic empowerment with a particular focus on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast' (WRC Report Number 1705/1/11).