People-Centred Environmental Management and Municipal Commonage in the Nama Karoo

"The effective management of municipal commonage can contribute to land reform, food security, local economic development and sustainable natural resource use. Commonage land is, in many towns, the only natural resource available to poor communities.This paper makes the following argument: Municipalities need assistance with establishing viable commonage management systems; such systems need to be based on the voluntary and committed participation by the users (that is ‘people-centred’); and this, in turn, requires an understanding of the emergent farmers’ knowledge base of the environment. This paper considers the prospects for commonage use in the arid areas of South Africa, notably the Nama-Karoo, or non-succulent Karoo, characterised by small shrubs and grass species. This geographic area should be differentiated from the Succulent Karoo of the Namaqualand and southern Cape areas, which have different rainfall and vegetative patterns. The Nama Karoo is the northern part of the Karoo, and is the largest biome in South Africa. It is characterised by low and variable rainfall, mainly in the summer months. It stretches up to the southern Free State. This geographical demarcation is also significant because of its land tenure characteristics. The phenomenon of ‘commonage’ in the Nama-Karoo area refers to municipally-owned land, whose overriding purpose has been for the use of urban residents."