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South Africa's working for water programme: searching for win-win outcomes for people and the environment

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  • Andrea Buch

    (Department of Geography, The University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

  • Alan B. Dixon

    (Institute of Science and the Environment, The University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

Abstract

Poverty reduction and environmental conservation have rarely been integrated within development programmes. In South Africa, however, the government's Working for Water Programme (WfW) has sought to empower the most marginalized in society through the creation of jobs and training opportunities in the clearance of invasive alien plants that threaten water resources and biodiversity. Although the environmental benefits of the programme have been demonstrated, there is emerging concern that the social development goals are overly ambitious and impractical. Drawing upon recent field research undertaken in the Western Cape, this paper explores the realities of people's participation in the WfW programme. It argues that, whilst WfW has produced some positive tangible social development outcomes, these are neither substantial nor sustainable. Of arguably greater significance is a range of hitherto overlooked intangible social development outcomes, which if recognized, supported and integrated more fully into the programme could lead to a more sustainable future for South Africa's people and environment. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrea Buch & Alan B. Dixon, 2009. "South Africa's working for water programme: searching for win-win outcomes for people and the environment," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 129-141.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:sustdv:v:17:y:2009:i:3:p:129-141
    DOI: 10.1002/sd.370
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anna McCord, 2004. "Public works: Policy expectations and programme realities," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 079, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    2. Broad, Robin, 1994. "The poor and the environment: Friends or foes?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 811-822, June.
    3. Agrawal, Arun, 2001. "Common Property Institutions and Sustainable Governance of Resources," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(10), pages 1649-1672, October.
    4. Barrett, Christopher B. & Lee, David R. & McPeak, John G., 2005. "Institutional Arrangements for Rural Poverty Reduction and Resource Conservation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 193-197, February.
    5. Anna McCord, 2003. "An Overview of the Performance and Potential of Public Works Programmes in South Africa," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 049, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    6. Tschakert, Petra, 2007. "Environmental services and poverty reduction: Options for smallholders in the Sahel," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 75-86, April.
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