Original Research

The feasibility of national parks in South Africa endorsing a community development agenda: The case of Mokala National Park and two neighbouring rural communities

Hendri Coetzee, Werner Nell
Koedoe | Vol 61, No 1 | a1470 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v61i1.1470 | © 2019 Hendri Coetzee, Werner Nell | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2017 | Published: 28 February 2019

About the author(s)

Hendri Coetzee, Institutional Sustainability and Community Impact Office and Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, South Africa
Werner Nell, Optentia Research Programme, North-West University, South Africa


This article explores the feasibility of South African National Parks (SANParks) endorsing a community development agenda, using Mokala National Park (MNP) and two neighbouring rural communities as case study. A three-phase sequential exploratory, mixed-methods approach was followed: an initial exploratory qualitative phase aimed at identifying the development needs of the two communities; a quantitative phase aimed at verifying and quantifying the identified needs; and a final qualitative phase (with a minor quantitative component) to determine what parks can reasonably achieve in terms of community development based on their available resources, capacity and expertise. Qualitative data were collected via semi-structured interviews (Phase 1: n = 22; Phase 3: n = 6), which were thematically analysed. Quantitative data were collected via a structured questionnaire (Phase 2: n = 484; Phase 3: n = 6) and analysed using SPSS 23. Findings revealed that the communities’ most significant needs centred on employment opportunities; improved healthcare, service delivery and waste management; and education. Community members also expressed the need for improved community policing, safety and security; social services; agricultural support and training; general skills development and training; local leadership; recreational facilities; local economic development and conservation initiatives. Results from the third phase of the study suggest that parks such as MNP can realistically only address some of the identified community needs significantly; primarily job creation (via temporary employment), skills development, local economic development, support of local conservation (especially via environmental education) and, to a lesser extent, agricultural support and training and permanent job creation.

Conservation implications: The findings could be of practical use to SANParks to steer its community development initiatives towards attaining a more optimal balance between actual community needs and what the organisation can realistically offer, thus rendering SANParks’ efforts more efficient and effective in supporting the establishment of equitable and sustainable rural communities.


community based conservation; community needs; national parks in South Africa; national parks and development; community development; Ratanang; Ritchie


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