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Social sciences


Grade 9

Social and environmental conflict in south africa

Module 10

Social consequences of environmental shortages

Environmental shortages have certain effects on the community. They are called ‘social implications’, of which we name only four.

  • A decrease in agricultural production
  • A downward trend in the economy
  • Migration of the population
  • The deteriorisation of institutions (organisations)

Explain in your own words why and how the above-mentioned consequences come about, and cite examples from your own area.

1. Decrease in agricultural production

In the homelands the agricultural potential has decreased due to the increase in population density, water shortages and soil-erosion. In the 1940’s Bophuthatswana farmers produced 110 kg maize per person. Today it has dropped to 50 kg per person.

This resulted in diseases caused by malnutrition, such as kwashiorkor in children and tuberculoses in adults. As the available resources for agriculture and forests decrease, many people are forced to abandon agriculture. They have no choice but to move to towns and cities to accept low-paid jobs.

Marginalised (disadvantaged) rural and urban black people become the victims of growing shortages and inadequate alternative (other) job opportunities. This results in chronic poverty (what is the meaning of “chronic” here?).

2. Downward trends in the economy

A drop in food production has a negative effect on the economy. Agriculture plays a key role in earning foreign income, called valuta. This means that the export of agricultural products ensures a steady flow of money to South Africa from foreign countries. It helps to stimulate the country’s economy.

If, however, production drops as a result of environmental factors, there is not enough food for export. It puts a strain on the economy and leads to entrenchments and unemployment in sectors closely linked to agriculture. Name some of these sectors in your and other areas that suffer when production drops.

3. Migration (movement of the population)

Over the past few years there was an increase in the movement of inhabitants from rural to urban areas. In the 1990’s the tempo at which urbanisation took place, was estimated at 750 000 per year. These people mostly end up in informal settlements. Not all of them manage to find a job in the city.

These migrants experience the same ecological disadvantages in the cities as they had to contend with in rural areas. The concentration of a large number of people in an area with limited resources, leads to the control of resources by certain groups.

Local power structures are formed where certain leaders obtain power by regulating the basic resources such as land and the allocation of houses and services. This can cause tension and malpractices.

Migration also leads to an increase in the number of informal settlements. At present the inhabitants of these settlements represent more than 30% of the total urban population. Informal settlements are found in most South African cities. Near Cape Town, for example, many of these houses consisting of any kind of waste material, from corrugated iron and planks to plastic sheets, are erected along the freeways. What are these inhabitants’ biggest problems? What possible solutions can you think of?

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Source:  OpenStax, Geography grade 9. OpenStax CNX. Sep 14, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11057/1.1
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