Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 1997
Project Ukusizana


This profile was prepared when Elna Kotze was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
Until the elections of 1994, those most negatively affected by the dominant, high impact land use patterns of South Africa did not have access to the political process. Until recently, they could not own land in the 83 percent of South Africa that was declared "white." Before Elna Kotze saw the way to a participatory rural land use planning methodology, there was no institution to study, promote and facilitate the creation of alternative, low-impact land use strategies.Elna's Ukuzwana project seeks to reverse decades of apartheid era rural land use practices that have been environmentally, economically, and politically destructive. Working through her own land use planning process, Elna involves all local stakeholders in considering "higher use" alternatives that creatively blend economic, social and environmental objectives.
The cornerstone of her methodology is the local "land use forum," which includes representatives of all stakeholder groups within a defined natural ecosystem. By locating land use planning within natural ecosystems, Elna encourages outcomes that are environmentally sustainable. Because ecosystems bear little relationship to existing administrative systems and land uses, they provide a fresh framework within which to fundamentally reconstruct South Africa's rural political economy.
Elna's short-term goal is to test and refine her methodology in one representative ecosystem in the Southern Mpumalanga, Eastern Orange Free State and Northern KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. By incrementally rolling out the planning process throughout the one million hectare region she plans to establish the world's first "global biosphere reserve" arrived at through a bottom-up, participatory process. The ultimate purpose of her project is to develop a model for proactive rural land use planning and integrated land use management that will be applicable anywhere.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You