, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 733-749
Date: 27 Feb 2006

The South African Experience of Conservation and Social Forestry Outreach Nurseries

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Abstract

Outreach nurseries are favored conservation and social forestry tools globally, but, as with many integrated conservation and development programs (ICDPs), they do not always produce anticipated results. A synopsis of the experience of South African practitioners is provided in this study of 65 outreach nurseries. South African outreach nurseries frequently include financial objectives, creating additional challenges in simultaneously attaining conservation and socioeconomic goals. Progress was hindered by biophysical problems (e.g., lack of water, poor soils, etc.) as well as the harsh socioeconomic conditions facing most communities in which nurseries had been established. Attaining financial viability was challenging. Business management skills were often restricted, and few viability studies included adequate market research. Costs to community participants were usually high, and benefits were limited. Conservation objectives were frequently lost in the struggle to attain financial viability. The management of social processes also proved challenging. Although small scale and relatively straightforward compared with many ICDPs, nurseries usually require substantial institutional support, including a range of technical, business, and development services. Project time frames need to be reconsidered, as practitioners estimate that it takes 5–10 years for nurseries to start meeting objectives, and donors and implementing agencies often operate on 2–3-year project cycles. Detailed viability studies are essential, incorporating a social probe and an assessment of potential impacts of projects on community participants. Progress needs to be continuously evaluated to enable institutions and community participants to adapt to changing conditions as well as ensure that the spectrum of objectives are being achieved.