The world today is faced with major threats to a stable future, such as the greenhouse effect, depletion of fossil fuels, desertification, poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor. People are becoming more aware of the importance of a sustainable relationship between social systems and ecosystems. These systems were investigated in a South African township in Hammanskraal, Gauteng. Fieldwork was done to determine the current land use of the residents, the land use impacts of the residents and the natural resources available to the residents. The current land use of the residents was determined by observations and interviews. The people modified the ecosystem to make decorative gardens, plant food crops and to fence the yards. The land use impact varied over the total area of the selected site. A TWINSPAN analysis divided the ecosystem into two major communities namely the Residential Major-community, which was divided into 5 sub-communities, and the Savanna Major-Community, which was divided into 3 sub-communities. The land use impact was determined for each sub-community of the Savannah Major-Community in terms of species composition, vegetation structure, grass biomass and grazing capacity. The land use impact of the residents is most destructive on the Residential Major-Community, though the impact in each sub-community is similar. The local ecosystem is used to discard waste and to cut trees for firewood. The land use impact of the residents on the local ecosystem is low compared to agricultural activities. It is concluded that the relationship between the social and the ecological systems of the selected site is dysfunctional, because some natural resources needed by the social system are limited or destroyed. These resources include soil, space, water and energy. An interesting question that was investigated is: Why do people plant ornamental plants if they do not have enough resources and food? The relationship between the social and the ecological systems are complex. Technologies are needed to reach sustainable household-based production, without requiring adaptations from the relevant systems. Technologies that were identified from the literature include the principles of plant communities, permaculture, conservation agriculture and intercropping.
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