The perceptions of forest-based communities in Vhembe District, South Africa, were examined. Special attention in this study was paid to the aspects linked to climate change, namely socio-cultural issues, views and awareness, beliefs about causes, concerns, and lifestyle adjustments that people are prepared to make. Vegetation type was considered as the major criterion when selecting Makhado, Mutale and Thulamela municipalities, which together with Musina, constitute Vhembe District in Limpopo Province. Seven rural communities in each municipality were selected. Using stratified proportionate random sampling in combination with weighted enumeration area (EA) for these communities, 366 households were chosen and interviewed. It was found that although awareness of ‘climate change’ was poor, most respondents understood what it meant and its associated challenges. Increasing occurrence of erratic rainfall and forest fires were regarded as visible manifestations of climate change. There was also strong concern about the effects of climate change on forests and forest-related products. The respondents expressed a desire to adopt responsible behaviour towards the use and management of forests as a climate-change intervention strategy. However, most community members were sceptical about the causes of climate change. Taking all these issues into account, it was clear that activities that would enlighten the people on the causes and consequences of climate change regarding their livelihoods should be carried out. This would help promote awareness of climate change and encourage people's participation in crafting measures that might help mitigate and adapt to climate change.
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Vol. 18 • No. 3