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The contemporary paradox of long-term planning for social-ecological change and its effects on the discourse-practice divide: evidence from Southern Africa

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The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Project between South Africa and Lesotho aims to bring about positive social-ecological change in and around the Maloti-Drakensberg mountain ecosystem. To this effect, the project has developed a long-term planning strategy that has to co-ordinate all involved actors - and their actions - until 2028. The paper describes and analyses the run-up to the strategy. By combining critical 'outside' research with practical 'inside' experience, the paper argues that governing contemporary social-ecological change is severely challenged by two main fundamental paradoxes: the fuelling of short-term dynamics by neoliberal pressures on interventions; and related to this, an increasing gap between discourse and practice. In turn, we argue that these challenges manifested particularly in pressures of 'all-inclusiveness', the relation between natural and social scientists and issues of 'selection' and 'sidetracking'. We conclude that combining 'critical outside' and 'practical inside' experiences can open up spaces for engaging these challenges.
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Keywords: Lesotho; South Africa; neoliberalism; socio-ecological change; transfrontier conservation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Social Studies, 2: Golder Associates Africa Midrand, GAA Matuka Close, Gauteng, South Africa

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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