Good or bad rangeland? Hybrid knowledge, science, and local understandings of vegetation dynamics in the Kalahari
Using data from field studies in the Kalahari rangelands of Southern Africa, the relationships between scientific and land user interpretations of land degradation and change in non-equilibrium savanna ecosystems are explored. Scientific and land user views are often regarded as distinct, and even opposed, knowledges. We contest that a more constructive view can be taken through the concept of hybrid knowledge, whereby value is attached to both approaches and through which a more useful and meaningful assessment of environmental change, and its implications for development and natural resource use, can be made. We find that in both the southwestern and northwestern Kalahari, pastoralists have a complex understanding of the patchiness of ecosystem variability, and that they utilise elements of this patchiness of change, notably dimensions of bush encroachment and grass species change that have commonly been regarded as degradation in scientific understandings, within livestock management strategies, especially at times of environmental stress. We urge caution in the application of the term degradation, and a more widespread recognition of the multifaceted dimensions, including benefits, of change within the scientifically recognized variability of non-equilibrium rangelands.
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