Community education and the crisis of biodiversity loss: Reflections from the hall of mirrors of past projects
Phadima, Lehlohonolo Joe
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South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse countries on our planet, and many South Africans depend on our biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, we face a rising biodiversity crisis, with many of our ecosystems destroyed, damaged or increasingly threatened by human activities. Effective community education is needed to limit further degradation of natural ecosystems that provide us with clean air and water, food and fuel, medicinal plants, and health-giving environments. In the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, 80% of ecosystems needing protection for their survival are within communal or privately owned land. Past top-down engagement approaches to conservation efforts targeting rural communities failed to turn many communities towards desirable conservation practices, and, instead, tended to alienate and divide people in rural communities. This chapter discusses key understandings and dynamics in community education initiatives aimed at reversing the biodiversity crisis, and bringing long-term, sustainable, biodiversity conservation solutions that truly benefit ecosystems and people in rural KZN and beyond.