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Water, Wellbeing and Protected Areas

Amber Abrams, University of Cape Town

This paper will examine the water-access impacts of a protected natural area on residents of a village bordering the protected area, in Limpopo, South Africa. The creation of protected natural areas entails the formation of boundaries to limit access and resource use, often under the assumption that the isolation from human activity will allow 'natural' environments/habitats to re-emerge. When humans are not afforded a place in protected spaces, 'edge-dwellers' emerge. This thesis explores how the resulting changes in water and river access can impact the availability, distribution, and quality of strategically important resources, and thus influence a wide range of ecological, epidemiological, and economic processes that directly and indirectly impinge on an individual's wellbeing. Based on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper aims to explore the tangible and intangible ways in which a protected area impacts on edge-dwellers' efforts to achieve wellbeing, including the emergent relationships, jealousies, tensions and changes that come as the nature reserve moves closer to, and impacts more on daily lives. In addition, it will trace how access issues relate to the development of moral and monetary economies around water, and draw on local knowledges to explore the ways in which local ecologies of wellbeing (Cohen 2013) are influenced by water access challenges and changes.



June 19, 2019


Internationales Kolleg Morphomata
Weyertal 59
50937 Köln