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The influence of social welfare grants on the dependency on and valuation of wetland ecosystem services
Expanded Title:There is general consensus among the sampled Mbongolwane households that the level of use of the wetland for agriculture and resource harvesting, and the associated perceptions of the value of the wetland, is closely linked to the agrarian culture attached to the older generation. This sentiment is succinctly captured in a statement made by one of the older community members: "Once we (referring to elders) are gone, there will be no more cultivation of wetland" (Mhlongo pers. comm. 2010) Individuals receiving old age pensions continue to cultivate and make use of the wetland resources despite having access to incomes from social welfare grants, as these practices are something they have grown up with and learnt from their parents. In general, only those who are ill or infirm do not cultivate their fields,. In contrast, the younger generation was unwilling to engage in agriculture or resource harvesting activities even if they have no income of their own and have time to invest in these activities. The younger community members described that their focus and responsibilities have changed, and are now different to that of the older generation. They argue that those attending school go to school daily, have to complete homework and then do household chores. This leaves little or no time for agriculture or craft production. In the case of the older generation, participating in cultivation started at a young age when schooling was not compulsory or common in rural areas, and is therefore part of their culture. There also appears to be a shift in ambition among the youth, with school leavers wanting to make a living from the skills they have learned at school (i.e reading, writing etc) rather than from primary production activities which they see as being of a lower social status. Others suggested that those who did not study agriculture at school were also unlikely to have the skills to cultivate, and they did not recognise that they could learn the cropping skills from their parents, as they did when they first started working the fields with their parents. As a result of this shift in cultural ideals, the youth see the wetland as being of little value. This shift appears to be strongly driven by an increase in schoolilng and formal education levels, and not necessarily the introduction of social welfare grants. Welfare grants to however seem to be indirectlly linked to a shift in the dependence on and valuation of wetland provisioning services. The increased injection of cash into the rural economy from the range of welfare grants appears to have bben a catalyst to the shift from a primarily subsistence and resource based economy to a commercial cash based economy. The social welfare grants have only directly increased the purchasing power of the households, but they have also provided capital that households can use to start businesses and thereby increase their income base. In addition, the increase in cash flow around these rural communities has meant that many of those not benefiting directly from welfare grants have also been able to start businesses to sell goods or services to whose who do have cash grants, and thereby increase their own cash earnings. This transition to a commercial cash based eonomy has increased the affordability of, and demand for, commercial alternativesto wetland resource for food and building materials. It has therefore reduced the dependence levels of poor households on the provisioning services from the wetland in particular. Welfare grants have afforded them the opportunity to reduce the diversity of their livelihood strategies (i.e the number and range of activities they undertake to provide for the family), which in conjunction with the shift in cultural ideals amongh the youth, has resulted in a decrease in agriculture and resource based activities in the wetland. This has decreased use pressures on the provisioning services from Mbongolwane wetland
Date Published:01/10/2011
Document Type:Research Report
Document Subjects:Ecosystem - Resource Economics
Document Format:Report
Document File Type:pdf
Research Report Type:Consultant
WRC Report No:KV 279/11
ISBN No:978-1-4312-0175-4
Authors:Lewis F; McCosh J; Nxele Z
Project No:K8/931
Organizations:Institute of Natural Resources
Document Size:7 105 KB
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