Creating Third Nature: Farm-dweller Futures and the Spatial Politics of Game Farming in KwaZulu-Natal

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Seminar Date
November 11, 2009
In the last decade or so there has been a significant shift in the practice of commercial agriculture on freehold farmland in many parts of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  Wildlife is bought and sold at game auctions, while the commercial cattle industry - considered economically marginal by many farmers - is in some areas giving way to various forms of wildlife production. These range from hunting lodges to upmarket private game reserves that offer an expensive luxury ecotourism experience to foreign tourists. This paper uses the theoretical concept of ‘third nature’ to discuss the creation of private ‘wilderness’ landscapes of this sort. The paper focuses on the spatial politics involved in the emergence of these new geographies of private wildlife production. These are landscapes shaped by power relations, and our focus is on what Donald S. Moore called ‘the situated practices through which identities and places are contested, produced, and reworked in particular localities’ (Moore 1997: 87). Clearly, when such changes are made in local landscapes, existing and sometimes long-standing relationships between landowners and farm dwellers are significantly disrupted. Dispossession is a key feature of this changing geography of production, as is spatial marginalisation.  It is important to note that the threat of displacement associated with game farming is simply the latest in the series of threats farm dwellers – and in particular, so-called labour tenants - have had to contend with over the last century. Many have maintained a foothold on the land for many years, and in some cases may now be prepared to accept a degree of spatial containment in order to stay on the farm. Yet such changes are not passively accepted by farm dwellers. The introduction of game farming impacts significantly on local identities and sense of place, and is often resisted or contested in various ways. In the current context, following the introduction of land reform legislation in the post-apartheid period, it is also sometimes possible for tenants to leverage state support for their claims to privately owned land.
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