Table 2. Local experts’ views (n = 11) on causal factors of forest change

Exotic tree species that people do not use:
 
Forest is large now because there are trees that didn’t grow here before.
 
Different types of trees now grow in the forest, which makes it denser.
 
Most of the trees that grow here were not here before and they destroy and out-compete the trees that are used by people.
 
New trees that are of no use to people are left and not cut down and so the forest became denser. These trees grew quickly and so the forest changed rapidly. These trees are out-competing the trees the community uses.
 
New trees that people do not use, and so do not cut, increase the size of the forest. These trees destroy the important trees.
Forests grow because fire clears land, then forests take hold:
 
After a fire more plants and trees grow back, which adds to the size and density of forest.
 
Fire can open up areas and small trees can grow in summer rain and then become part of the forest.
 
Fire does not enter the forest, so does not affect it, but burns the edge and new trees grow normally, e.g., Umnga.
 
Plants on the edge of the forest are destroyed by fire but this fire does not stop the forest from growing.
 
In winter, there is fire that burns the forest. In summer, the trees grow back and grow bigger and denser. But don’t think that fire affects the shape or size of the forest.
Forests grow because people abandon homesteads:
 
The village was on the edge of the forest in 1974, now in 2005 the whole area is covered by forest.
 
Forest followed the stream in the past. There were homes near the stream and cows used to graze. The homes have gone and so have the cows.
 
Between 1971 and 1973, people moved to be on top of the hill and near the road, the area where they lived has now become part of the forest.
 
From 1987–1988 people moved to Fubesi to be near the road and services and when they left the forest started to grow.
 
People were moved because of apartheid and their land was overrun by forest.
Forests grow because people stop cultivation:
 
Fields that were cultivated in 1974 have now been overrun by the forest.
 
Places where people used to cultivate are now forests and people have moved to another village to cultivate.
 
It is natural that the trees take over abandoned land.
 
The people stopped cultivating the land and the forest took over.
 
This place was used for farming and cultivation, but these people stopped and forest took over the land.
Natural expansion:
 
Change is natural; the forest became bigger and took over the grassland.
People no longer cut so many trees for building materials:
 
People nowadays use more blocks and bricks for building rather than trees.