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Utilisation of Commonages for Sustainable Tourism Opportunities for the Poor in Namaqualand, South Africa

  • Ecology
  • Economics


This paper investigates the impact of livestock farming on rural livelihoods on redistributed commonage land in Namaqualand post-1994. The paper contends that farming has been declining for decades, where its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 10% in the 1970s to about 3.5% in 2005, resulting in the loss of up to 400 000 jobs in the sector. The findings suggest that commonage users are barely able to sustain themselves from cash earnings gained from livestock farming and that there have been no visible improvements in terms of their quality of life e.g. improved housing or ability to educate their children. The findings further illustrate that while livestock farming is the only known and practiced means of livelihood available to most people in Namaqualand because of the arid climate and poor crop farming conditions, commonage users are receptive to alternatives to traditional farming such as sustainable tourism. In order to make a case for sustainable tourism, the study has investigated a sustainable tourism venture in the Richtersveld, Namaqualand. The study has found that the venture has provided both economic spin-offs (job opportunities, infrastructure development and increased spending by tourists in the area) as well as social (reduced unemployment, reduced alcoholism, increased capacity and skills and engagement of the youth in meaningful job creation). In view of the findings from the commonage case studies and the Richtersveld sustainable tourism venture, the study proposes that South Africa's land reform strategy should offer other sustainable development options such as tourism as an alternative to rural people.

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