The Best Laid Plans: Using the Capability Approach to Assess Neoliberal Conservation in South Africa-The Case of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The article documents the case of South Africa's struggle to reconcile racially based poverty, a legacy of apartheid, and attempts to conserve the country's unique and important biodiversity. We present an analysis of KwaDapha, a small village in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal, a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage Site, in terms of the capability approach. Despite South Africa's strong human rights orientation, we show that the freedom, or agency, of local users and inhabitants to achieve doings and beings according to their own values and norms, is constrained by state-led conservation management at KwaDapha. We suggest that the intellectual cause of this failure might lie in the conflation of two distinct concepts: human rights and the capability approach, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park's predominantly market-based operationalization of sustainable development.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • Social Anthropology


  • agency, Africa, South, market-based conservation, human rights, the capability approach
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-417
JournalThe Journal of Environment & Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch