Contrasting livelihoods in the upper and lower Gariep River basin : a study of livelihood change and household development

McDermott, Lindsay (2006) Contrasting livelihoods in the upper and lower Gariep River basin : a study of livelihood change and household development. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This study investigated rural livelihoods in two contrasting environments in the upper and lower reaches of the Gariep River: Sehlabathebe in the Lesotho highlands, and the Richtersveld in the Northern Cape, and how these have changed over time. Livelihoods were examined using the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework in conjunction with the household development cycle. This study therefore adopted a multi-scale approach, where a micro-level household analysis was framed within the macro level social, political, environmental, economic and institutional context, while taking into account the role of temporal scale of livelihood change. A multi-scale approach facilitated the identification of the major drivers of change, both exogenous and endogenous. The combination of livelihood strategies pursued differed between the two sites. Households in Sehlabathebe are reliant mainly on arable and garden cultivation, livestock in some households, occasional remittances, use of wild resources, petty trading and reliance on donations. Households in the Richtersveld relied primarily on livestock, wage labour, use of wild resources and State grants or pensions. The livelihood strategies pursued in each site have not changed markedly over time, but rather the relative importance of those strategies was found to have changed. The assets available to households, the livelihood strategies adopted and the changes in these livelihood strategies are influenced by a households stage in the development cycle and differing macro-level factors. Drivers of change operate at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and are often complex and interrelated. The major drivers of livelihood change were identified as macro-economic, demographic, institutional and social and climatic. This study highlights the importance of using historical analysis in the study of livelihoods, as well as the complexity and diversity of rural livelihoods. Ecosystem goods and services were found to play a fundamental role in rural livelihoods and are influenced by institutional factors. Rural households are heavily reliant on the formal economy, and macro-economic changes have had a significant impact on livelihoods. This is highlighted by how the drastic decline in migrant labour opportunities for households in Sehlabathebe has negatively affected them. Vulnerability was shown to be a result of external shocks and trends, such as institutional transformation, a decline in employment opportunities, theft and climatic variation; and differed between the two sites. The role of institutional breakdown was shown to be a major factor influencing rural livelihoods, and this is related to broader economic and political changes. This study contributes to the growing literature on rural livelihoods by allowing for an appreciation of how differing environments and contextual factors influence livelihood strategies adopted, and which different factors are driving change.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Rural development, Lesotho, Poor, Agriculture
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD72 Economic growth, development, planning
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Environmental Science
ID Code:2817
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:21 May 2012 08:06
Last Modified:21 May 2012 08:06
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