Coppice harvesting of fuelwood species on a South African Common: Utilizing scientific and indigenous knowledge in community based natural resource management
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The limitations of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) with respect to the difficulties of comparing local versus scientific knowledge categories within a bounded definition of 'community' were investigated by means of a study exploring local indigenous knowledge pertaining to harvesting technique, and the impact of soil and species type on the post-harvest coppice response of popular savanna fuelwood species, among rural inhabitants of the Bushbuckridge region of the Limpopo Province, South Africa. Soils and plants were evaluated chiefly in terms of their perceived ability to retain precipitation, making rainfall a driving force in local understanding of environmental productivity. Some indigenous knowledge showed an agreement with biological data, but overall the variability in responses, as well as the diverse scales at which indigenous and scientific knowledge is directed, were too great to allow for simplistic parallels between local ecological indices to be made. Indigenous environmental knowledge was underscored by the perceived symbolic link between environmental and social degradation. It is recommended that environmental managers incorporate indigenous knowledge as a component of a systems-level approach to natural resource management, where biological, cultural, economic, and symbolic aspects of natural resource use are nested within a broader ecosocial system. This approach to indigenous knowledge is offered as an alternative to the simple scientific evaluation that so often characterizes environmental management.
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