Original Research

Linking sustainable local economic development to a market-based carbon control regime: Carbon restoration projects in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa using Portulacaria afra

James Polak, Jeanette Snowball
Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences | Vol 12, No 1 | a225 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v12i1.225 | © 2019 James Polak, Jeanette Snowball | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 May 2018 | Published: 29 July 2019

About the author(s)

James Polak, Department of Economics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Jeanette Snowball, Department of Economics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

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Orientation: There is growing interest in how international climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes play out at the local level.

Research purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the link between land restoration and carbon sequestration projects in the Eastern Cape, using Portulacaria afra (Spekboom), and market-based approaches to address global climate change.

Motivation for the study: The Eastern Cape is one of the poorest areas of the country, and there is great emphasis on the establishment of economically and environmentally sustainable, as well as socially just, local economic development (LED) initiatives. However, LED projects are often not sustainable in the long run.

Research design, approach and method: A mixed methods design, using data on international carbon markets, and key stakeholder interviews with those involved in LED land restoration programmes, was used. Qualitative results were analysed using Connelly’s (2007) framework for sustainable development, which included indicators for environmental protection, economic growth and social justice.

Main findings: Stakeholders perceive the long-term financial sustainability of such projects as resting on their ability to earn carbon credits, despite the current very low international carbon prices.

Practical/managerial implications: The long-term success of carbon-based restoration projects may depend on the establishment of a local carbon market or continued public funding. Upfront costs of land restoration projects are high and return only starts years later.

Contribution/value-add: The establishment of a South African carbon market that helps carbon sequestration LED projects to meet the technical and administrative requirements needed to sell carbon credits will be an important determinant of their sustainability.


local economic development; climate change; sustainability; Spekboom; carbon control regimes


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