A case study of landholder attitudes and behaviour towards the conservation of Renosterveld, a critically endangered vegetation type in the Cape Floral Kingdom, South Africa

20 June 2007

Attitudes and behaviour of private landholders towards the conservation of a highly transformed and critically endangered habitat, Overberg Coastal Renosterveld (OCR) (a grassy-shrubland of the Cape Floral Region, SA) are described. Personal, semi-structured interviews were conducted with landholders, representing 40 properties in the Overberg region, on topics such as their management and utilisation of OCR, the depth of their knowledge of its conservation importance, what they perceive its value to be, and extent of their willingness to conserve it. General attitudes towards conservation incentives and provincial conservation authorities were also investigated. Farmers more willing to conserve were younger, did not necessarily have a better education, and owned larger farms (> 500 ha) with a greater amount of remnant renosterveld (>300 ha), than those less willing to conserve. Attitudes towards OCR were largely negative, due to associated problem plants and animals, and because it is not economically advantageous to retain it. However farmers are of the opinion that provision of incentives and increased extension support will provide practical positive inducements for conservation. Landholder education is paramount to prevent further transformation of critically endangered habitats. The success of private-conservation programs depends on: • the attitudes of landowners towards (i) the particular habitat or species to be conserved (which can vary depending on the type of land use practised, and the associated benefits and disadvantages of that habitat type); and (ii) the conservation agency or extension officers responsible for that area; • the willingness of landowners to participate in a conservation program, which is influenced by landowner age, farm size and the amount of natural habitat left to conserve.