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Natural Resources Management

Natural resource management (NRM)...

is the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations (stewardship).

Natural resource management deals with managing the way in which people and natural landscapes interact. It brings together natural heritage management, land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry. It recognises that people and their livelihoods rely on the health and productivity of our landscapes, and their actions as stewards of the land play a critical role in maintaining this health and productivity.

Natural resource management specifically focuses on a scientific and technical understanding of resources and ecology and the life-supporting capacity of those resources. Environmental management is similar to natural resource management. In academic contexts, the sociology of natural resources is closely related to, but distinct from, natural resource management.

The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was adopted by the South African government in 2004 in line with the broader strategy of addressing structural poverty in South Africa (DEA, 2014). It was seen as a nationwide government led initiative aimed at drawing a significant number of unemployed South Africans into productive work in a manner that would enable them to gain skills and increase their capacity to earn income. The EPWP advances the principle of government expenditure, across all three spheres, to provide employment opportunities and skills development to the unemployed. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has implemented the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Programme and Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) which are in line with the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) through seeking ways to address environmental challenges as per DFFE’s strategic objectives. The EPIP and NRM annual targets for the 2021/22 year are:

  • Women: 60%
  • Youth: 55%
  • Disabled: 2%

The NRM Programmes vision is “to support sustainable livelihoods for local people through integrated landscape management that strives for resilient social-ecological systems and which fosters equity in access to ecosystem services.”

The NRM Programmes target certain categories of people, specifically, the previously disadvantaged, i.e. women, youth and people with disabilities. The NRM Programmes objectives are illustrated as follows:

  • To enhance the restoration and maintenance of natural ecosystems and the delivery of ecosystem services;
  • Job creation;
  • Skills development; and
  • Strengthening support for SMMEs.

The NRM Programmes contribute to investments in the restoration and maintenance of natural resources (Ecological Infrastructure) to enhance the

security and delivery of biodiversity and ecosystem services and to improve socio-economic benefits within the environmental sector public employment programmes through the EP Branch participation in the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme. The NRM Programmes address the threats to the productive use of land and water, and the functioning of natural systems, by invasive alien species, wildfires and land degradation, as well as the opportunities for value-added industries (including fibre and furniture production), whilst ensuring meaningful livelihood opportunities are supported for those employed in doing this work.

NRM Programmes are implemented through the following five focus areas:

  • Working for Water (WfW) - The programme aims to improve the integrity of natural resources by preventing the introduction of new invasive species; and, management of the impact of established invasive alien species.
  • Working for Forests (WfF) - The programme promotes the conversion of invading alien plant stands, and degraded Category B and C state forests, into utilizable resources for meeting basic community needs as well as sustainable forestry land-use practices.
  • Working for Ecosystems (WfEco) - The programme aims to restore the composition, structure and function of degraded land, thereby enhancing ecosystem functioning, such as carbon sequestration, water regulation and purification.
  • Working for Wetlands (WfWet) - The programme seeks to protect, rehabilitate and enhance the sustainable use of South Africa’s wetlands.
  • Working on Fire (WoF) - The programme aims to enhance the sustainability and protection of life, livelihoods, ecosystem services and natural processes through integrated fire management.


Both the NRM and EPIP Chief Directorates undertake labour intensive work which is environmentally related in its nature. Both Chief Directorates approach the market with calls for bids for the implementation of their respective spheres of work.