Skip to main content


Social and Ecological Dimensions of Ecosystems Management

Natural resources play a key role in the multiple livelihood strategies of rural people in Southern Africa. Sector-specific, science-based, technical and centralised management approaches have not been successful in achieving sustainable and equitable utilisation, resulting in degradation of natural resources in most rural areas, thus jeopardising sustainable rural livelihoods and long-term economic development.

In recent years there has been increased emphasis on holistic and people-centred approaches to the management and governance of natural resources. This is usually referred to as the ‘Ecosystem Approach to Management’. In addition, we cannot ignore the concerns that arise from ‘climate change’, including how communities cope, adapt and mitigate climate change as a crucial factor for communities dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

This module provides an introduction to the key concepts, issues and debates regarding resource management. The module emphasises the centrality of people, rural livelihoods and gender in sustainable natural resource management, together with the impacts that climate change could have on these.

The objectives of this module are:

  • to develop a critical understanding of the theory and concepts of common property;
  • to engage and analyse key issues and debates around sustainable utilisation, livelihoods and natural resource management;
  • to understand the complexities and uncertainties of the social aspects of ecosystems management;
  • to understand how natural resource-dependent communities cope with, adapt to and mitigate climate change;
  • to apply the theories, concepts and lessons to development interventions; and
  • to critically analyse and apply the lessons from case studies to reality and their working environments.