Human wildlife conflicts are the product of socio-economic and political landscapes, and are controversial because the resources concerned have economic value and the species are often high profile and legally protected. This complexity exists within the long history of damage-causing animals (DCA) which have exited the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, inflicting damage on property, increasing disease transfer between wildlife and livestock, and seriously undermining the food security of impoverished local communities. The historical background of these communities is characterized by a general dissatisfaction with KNP, in part due to wildlife damage to crops, livestock and property and, in some cases, has triggered retaliatory killing of wildlife. Conflicts that are not adequately resolved assure the maintenance of a tense relationship between the park and communities, which has undesirable social and ecological consequences and, because of its perception as environmental injustice, poses risks for the park and its resources in the longer-term.
As a response, KNP is currently negotiating a pilot compensation scheme with local communities which would see financial retribution given to farmers who have previously lost livestock to DCA. This process is inclusive and facilitative, and its rationale is twofold: constituency building and redressing environmental injustice. Although this initial program would be a pilot, it is envisaged that a more permanent program would be established to ameliorate the negative effects of DCA in areas adjacent to the park. Both the pilot and more permanent program are the focus of this study.
South African National Parks (SANP) has developed a strategic plan and adaptive management framework, with associated objectives, for meeting its overall mission, “To develop, manage and promote a system of national parks that represents biodiversity and heritage assets by applying best practice, environmental justice, benefit-sharing and sustainable use.” Both ‘biodiversity’ and ‘people’ objectives are integral to SANP fulfilling its mission, with ‘constituency building’ being a core ‘people’ sub-objective. To date, no attempt has been made to offer a suitable set of quantitative/qualitative indicators for constituency building objectives. Moreover, as the scheme will be launched in 2013, it is vital that research be conducted that will evaluate how the planning, implementation, and monitoring of this scheme will contribute to SANP overall objectives.
This innovative multi-year project, utilizing archival document analysis, focus groups, and both informal and semi-structured interviews (with approved ethics protocol), will use funding to actively engage with relevant stakeholders (e.g. KNP, farmers, villages) to identify and evaluate mutually agreeable indicators to measure the effectiveness of this compensation scheme. This project will not only contribute to bringing more positive outcomes to wildlife, KNP, and its local communities, but can be used as a guiding framework in other contexts where protected areas are seeking to monitor the impacts of programs to ameliorate any negative effects they pose to their neighbors.