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A Brief History

The Social Ecology Unit of SANParks was created in 1995 in order to facilitate positive relationships with local people living adjacent to National Parks.

Between 1997 and 1999 a great deal of effort was invested in building the capacity of the Social Ecology Unit so that they could establish and service various community structures. However, these community structures became centres of conflict on issues of power and access to resources. Furthermore, management marginalized the Social Ecology programme, arguing that it did not fall within the organizations core functions. This resulted in frustrations and a lack of well-defined paths for Social Ecologists, which resulted in high staff turn over, and eventually a near collapse of the Social Ecology programme.

The current emphasis on “People and Parks” and “Benefits Beyond Boundaries” highlights the important role which SANParks has to play with regard to issues around sustainable economic development.

After several strategic workshops and the input of independent consultants (McKinsey) it was decided to create a Directorate which would deal specifically with the people / Parks interface.

This new Directorate, called People and Conservation, was established in August 2003 and aims to proudly instill values of stewardship of the environment, and raise awareness about conservation issues.

The Directorate concentrates its constituency building efforts on schools, communities around parks, employees and the general South African public, thus far with great success.