Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 1205–1226 | Cite as

Protected areas as vehicles in population development: lessons from rural South Africa

  • André PelserEmail author
  • Nola Redelinghuys
  • Nontombi Velelo


Protected areas in developing countries are increasingly expected to move beyond biodiversity protection so as also to contribute to poverty reduction and the economic development of their surrounding communities. The purpose of this article is to report on the key findings that emerged from the assessment of a poverty alleviation programme at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa and the lessons learned from that particular programme. Designed around outcomes analysis as an analytical framework for programme evaluation, a mixed-method approach of semi-structured interviews and focus-group sessions was used to collect data from amongst programme beneficiaries, the park management and members of the park’s advisory board. The findings indicate that although programmes of this kind can indeed impact positively on poverty levels, their direct impacts do however remain limited to a relatively small proportion of households in neighbouring communities. The article concludes that by conceptualising poverty as a multidimensional state of well-being, this allows for the exploration of a much broader range of potential social, cultural and economic benefits available from protected areas.


Protected areas Poverty alleviation Community-based conservation Population development Conservation benefits 



This research project was approved by South African National Parks and it complies with the ethical standards set by the latter. The authors wish to thank South African National Parks, and particularly the management of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, for their support during the field study for this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • André Pelser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nola Redelinghuys
    • 1
  • Nontombi Velelo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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