Unravelling the perpetuated marginalization of customary livelihoods on the coast by plural and multi-level conservation governance systems

By Philile Mbatha

“In various parts of the world, rural and indigenous coastal communities who have a long history of relying on land and coastal resources that predates colonial times are threatened by an ever-expanding conservation estate. In South Africa, such communities have been “conserving” resources for a long time through customary systems of governance. However, these systems of resource use have been undermined by state-led multi-scalar and plural conservation governance interventions. State-driven conservation in South Africa tends to focus primarily on biodiversity and ignores the rights and needs of rural people, with conservation governance in rural areas failing to recognize bona fide customary governance systems. Instead, the institutions of traditional authorities, which are not always representative of the needs and views of wider rural populations, are regarded as allies in promoting exclusionary and oppressive forms of conservation. Using a case study research approach, this study uses the case of Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa as a lens to demonstrate that plural conservation governance systems that ignore local customary systems of marine resource governance result in conservation governance perpetuating the disenfranchisement of coastal communities….”