How important is green infrastructure in small and medium-sized towns? Lessons from South Africa

The current nature and challenges of urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa display several unique features only weakly evident on other continents. Key ones include the current high rates of population growth, inadequate planning and governance systems, concentration in small and medium-sized towns, and increasing urban poverty. These shape the extent, nature and use of ecosystem services provided by urban green infrastructure.

This paper first examines the location of green infrastructure across nine towns, showing that it is unequal between suburbs and that the bulk is located under private tenure (74%) rather than in public spaces. We then consider the extent and patterns of use of selected provisioning and cultural ecosystem services from green infrastructure in different locations within towns, including private gardens, public parks and street trees. The results show significant use of green infrastructure for a range of provisioning and cultural services as well as its contribution to spiritual and mental well-being. Provisioning contributions are both in regular support of livelihood needs as well as increased use after a covariate shock (a flood), both of which help reduce household vulnerability. Lastly, our results show the expressed level of support and willingness-to-pay or work amongst urban residents for green infrastructure and the services it provides. Whilst the composite results indicate marked variation between and within towns, they show that there is widespread use of green infrastructure for both basic needs as well as for more aesthetic and psycho-spiritual appreciation and recreation, in small and medium-sized towns in a developing country such as South Africa.

Article available from Landscape and Urban Planning. January 2017 (Open Access).

Photo Credit: Warrenski (Flickr)


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Landscape and Urban Planning
Year 2017
Author(s) C.M. Shackleton, A. Blair, P. De Lacy, H. Kaoma, N. Mugwagwa, M.T. Dalu and W. Walton
ISSN 0169-2046
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