In South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique there are a plethora of policy statements, approaches and initiatives that are seeking to commercialise tourism and forestry assets, while simultaneously incorporating some element of community involvement.
Despite important differences, similar overall assumptions concerning the role of the private sector, communities and government are reflected in these policy approaches. The common theme is to promote ‘pro-poor growth’ by encouraging private sector activity in using forests, wildlife and wild resources, and, to varying degrees, to enhance the benefits to the poor deriving from this.
Using detailed case studies this paper examines these approaches, explores the driving forces and assesses their impact on the livelihoods of the poor. The case studies suggest that the new forms of interaction between communities and the private sector are highly varied in their impacts on the poor.
There are too many unsuccessful examples to suggest that ‘making markets work for the poor’ happens easily or automatically. While some of the poor are earning or will gain cash incomes and economic opportunities, there is inequality in these opportunities, and insufficient attention paid to the participation of the poor in decision-making and to the trade-offs with other livelihood priorities.
For the market to be helpful in alleviating poverty there needs to be a more level playing field; a recognition that markets are intensely politicised and easily captured by elites; and a willingness on behalf of the state to intervene in markets and address the issue of equity with redistributive mechanisms where necessary.