The impacts of ecosystem services and environmental governance on human well-being in the Pongola floodplain, South Africa


The Pongola River ESPA was a project managed by Bruce Lankford (DEV, UEA), Chris Dickens and Kate Pringle (both INR, South Africa). It was one of 12 “Strengthening Research Capacity” projects funded by NERC examining the linkages between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation (ESPA). The research site was located in the Pongola/Jozini water system in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.   The project ran from January 2009 to January 2010.


The waters in the Jozini dam are used for three main purposes; Pongola river and floodplain releases, and two irrigation systems. For each of these purposes and the zones they represent, the research examined, on an annual calendar, a number of research questions:

  1. What were the main ecosystem services in the areas and time windows?
  2. What water volumes did they require to be ‘supported’?
  3. Who & which stakeholders and users accessed these services?
  4. What monetary value did the services represent?
  5. How was the monetary value apportioned to or accessed by poor people?

With the above five questions in mind, three scenarios (pre-dam, current and future ‘improved management’) were explored with two key policy questions:

  1. To what extent have management decisions impacted on ecosystem services and associated well-being?
  2. How might decision makers manage water from the Jozini dam to extend ecosystem services to enhance well-being for more water users?

Project summary     Project objectives     Project beneficiaries     Schematic PRESPA Map

Project findings and outputs