Publication


The relevance of ecosystem services to land reform policies: Insights from South Africa

Author(s): Clements, H.S.; De Vos, A.; Bezerra, J.C.; Coetzer, K.; Maciejewski, K.; Mograbib, P.J.; Shackleton, C.
Link to CST author(s): Dr Kristi Maciejewski, Dr Hayley Clements
Publication: Land Use Policy
Year: 2020
Full reference: Clements, H.S.; De Vos, A.; Bezerra, J.C.; Coetzer, K.; Maciejewski, K.; Mograbib, P.J.; Shackleton, C. 2020. The relevance of ecosystem services to land reform policies: Insights from South Africa. Land Use Policy 100
Download publication https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.104939



Summary

Land reform is an important socio-political strategy in many countries. Despite the importance of ecosystem health in attaining land reform objectives, human-nature interactions have been largely absent from contemporary land reform discussions. In this perspectives paper, we highlight why land reform programmes could benefit from considering ecosystem services in their planning processes, to better achieve their goals of socioeconomic development and equity. Drawing on examples from South Africa, we argue that an ecosystem services lens can help achieve equity in land reform programmes by providing insight into how land-use legacies and the multi-functional nature of landscapes influence who benefits from land reform across space and through time. An ecosystem services lens also broadens understanding of how fragmentation and a changing climate may affect land reform benefits over time. In ignoring these human-nature interactions, and often unquestioningly applying one-size-fit-all approaches, land-reform policies risk missing the ultimate needs of beneficiaries and broader society. Considering these insights, we discuss practical implications of an ecosystem services lens for land reform programmes. These include the need for context-sensitive, localized land reform planning that accounts for ecosystem service heterogeneity, possible trade-offs, and beneficiaries’ preferences and capacities. Accordingly, extension services need to possess local knowledge and avoid generic, top-down and inflexible approaches. These social-ecological considerations are imperative if countries are to achieve sustainable and equitable land reform.