The direct use value of municipal commonage goods and services to urban households in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

  • Davenport N
  • Shackleton C
  • Gambiza J
  • 17


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To redress past racial discrepancies in ownership and tenure, the ANC government of South Africa initiated programmes to make land accessible to the previously disadvantaged. A key component of the national land reform programme was the provision of commonage lands to urban municipalities for use by the urban poor. However, there has been no assessment of the contribution that urban commonage makes to previously disadvantaged households. This study assessed the economic benefits of the commonage programme to local households, through an in-depth survey of 90 households across three small towns in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. We examined the marketed and non-marketed consumptive direct-use values of land-based livelihoods on commonage, calculated via the ‘own reported values’ approach. The results indicate that a proportion of South Africa's urban population rely to some degree on municipal commonage for part of their livelihoods. Commonage contributions to total livelihood incomes ranged between 14 and 20%. If the contributions from commonage were excluded, the incomes of over 10% of households in each study town would drop below the poverty line. Overall, the value of harvests from commonage was worth over R1 000 (US$ 142) per hectare per year and over R4.7 million (US$ 0.68 million) per commonage per year. However, the extent and nature of use and reliance was not uniform among households, so that we developed a typology of commonage users, with four types being identified. However, rapidly growing urban populations and high levels of poverty potentially threaten the sustainability of commonage resource use. Yet the national land reform programme focuses largely on the transfer of land to municipalities and not on sustainable management. Municipalities, in turn, invest relatively little in commonage management, and the little they do is focussed on livestock production. Non-timber forest products are not considered at all, even though this study shows that they are a vital resource for the urban poor, notably for energy and construction materials.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Land
  • Livelihood strategies
  • Municipal commonage
  • Non-timber forest products
  • Resource valuation
  • Urban

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  • N.A. Davenport

  • C.M. Shackleton

  • J. Gambiza

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