The South African game farming industry has grown exponentially since the 1960s and makes a significant contribution to South Africa's GDP. Recently, a number of challenges to the sustainability of the industry have emerged. This has led to concerns by environmental NGOs, academics and government officials about land degradation, hybridization, inbreeding, disrupted ecosystem processes, social impacts, and economic feasibility. Game farmers have raised concerns about the industry's governance, in particular the lack of consultation, inconsistent regulation, lack of capacity and leadership, and indecisiveness in government. The root of the problem lies in the incorrect and untested assumption that current science, policy and governance systems are adequate to achieve the goals of sustainability, leading to a top-down approach to regulation and the absence of adaptive management and co-learning. In this paper, we outline the ecological, social and economic benefits of sustainable game farm management. We propose an alternative approach to responsible management and better governance, based on the principles of adaptive co-management and co-regulation. We put forward a learning-and-process model starting with knowledge generation, awareness raising, knowledge sharing, learning, trust building, policy adaptation, monitoring and, ultimately, assessment and certification. The process moves from ineffective regulation to co-regulation, and the capacity to govern as well as the ecosystem's capacity to produce lasting services increases steadily as the process evolves. We suggest that the process outlined in the model should be guided by independent facilitators and culminate in a certification system for sustainably managed game farms.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1