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The Identification of Potential Resilient Estuary-based Enterprises to Encourage Economic Empowerment in South Africa: a Toolkit Approach

Rebecca Bowd, School of Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Nevil Quinn, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of the West of England
Donovan C Kotze, School of Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Duncan G Hay, Independent Consultant
Myles Mander, Eco-Futures


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It has been argued that ecosystem services can be used as the foundation to provide economic opportunities to empower the disadvantaged. The Ecosystem Services Framework (ESF) approach for poverty alleviation, which balances resource conservation and human resource use, has received much attention in the literature. However, few projects have successfully achieved both conservation and economic objectives. This is partly due to there being a hiatus between theory and practice, due to the absence of tools that help make the transition between conceptual frameworks and theory, to practical integration of ecosystem services into decision making.

To address this hiatus, an existing conceptual framework for analyzing the robustness of social-ecological systems was translated into a practical toolkit to help understand the complexity of social-ecological systems (SES). The toolkit can be used by a diversity of stakeholders as a decision making aid for assessing ecosystem services supply and demand and associated enterprise opportunities.

The toolkit is participatory and combines both a generic “top-down” scientific approach with a case-specific “bottom-up” approach. It promotes a shared understanding of the utilization of ecosystem services, which is the foundation of identifying resilient enterprises. The toolkit comprises four steps: (i) ecosystem services supply and demand assessment; (ii) roles identification; (iii) enterprise opportunity identification; and (vi) enterprise risk assessment, and was tested at two estuary study sites. Implementation of the toolkit requires the populating of preprogrammed Excel worksheets through the holding of workshops that are attended by stakeholders associated with the ecosystems.

It was concluded that for an enterprise to be resilient, it must be resilient at an external SES level,which the toolkit addresses, and at an internal business functioning level, e.g., social dynamics among personnel, skills, and literacy levels. Although the toolkit does not address the internal resilience level of an enterprise, it proved helpful at indicating which enterprises show potential resilience given current SES conditions.

Key words

ecosystem services; participatory tools; risk assessment; social-ecological systems; stakeholder engagement

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087