Survey of Community Livelihoods and Landscape Change along the Nzhelele and Levuvhu River Catchments in Limpopo Province, South Africa | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
March 2020
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© 2020 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article.

Landscape-change studies have attracted increasing interest because of their importance to land management and the sustainable livelihoods of rural communities. However, empirical studies on landscape change and its drivers are often poorly understood, particularly, in small rural communities in developing countries such as South Africa. The present study surveyed local community livelihoods and perceptions of landscape change in the Nzhelele and Levuvhu river catchments in Limpopo Province, South Africa. These areas have experienced land reform and are also characterized by environmental degradation, poverty, inequality and environmental justice concerns among other issues. Land-cover maps derived from Landsat satellite imagery were used for purposes of correlating and validating the survey data findings and results. The survey results showed that education levels, working status and marital status have statistically significant effects on community livelihoods (indicated by levels of income, p < 0.05). Maize, fruits and vegetables are the main cultivated crop varieties in the study area, and these crops are mainly used for subsistence to meet household self-consumption requirements. Moreover, local community members and stakeholders argue that the landscape has changed over the past 20 years mainly as a result of urban expansion, deforestation, agricultural diversification and forestry intensification. These landscape changes were largely confirmed by the land-cover change maps derived from satellite imagery. Soil erosion as a result of landscape changes was identified as a major threat and hazard in the study area. Political, natural, economic and cultural factors have been identified as the major underlying drivers for the observed landscape changes. These results have implications for understanding landscape change, coupled with human–nature relationships as well as informing government policy with respect to advancing land management and further promotion of the sustainable livelihoods of rural communities. Overall, the study proposes a multiple stakeholders’ approach and ecosystem-based approach to promote the sustainable management of landscapes in rural areas.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Musakwa, Walter
Wang, Shuai
Wei, Fangli
Malapane, L. Olgah
Thomas, M. Masala
Mavengahama, Sydney
Zeng, Hongwei
Wu, Bingfang
Zhao, Wenwu
Nyathi, A. Nesisa
Mashimbye, E. Zama
Poona, Nitesh
Chakwizira, James
Gumbo, Trynos
Mokoena, Baleseng
Kaitano, Francis
Fundisi, Emmanuel
Yeni-Letsoko, Vuyiswa


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