This research describes the shift that has taken place since the 1990’s in the southern African development-conservation paradigm – from an approach that emphasized centralized management and wildlife protection, to one that better incorporates socio-economic development and promotes inclusive management and sustainable livelihood strategies.
With this shift in thinking came the growth of conservation approaches that, at least conceptually, better recognize the rights of local people to manage and benefit from valuable natural resources located on communal land. The results of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) have been mixed in the 25 years since the first program were initiated in southern Africa.
The main conceptual foundations of CBNRM – economic incentives, devolution, proprietorship, and conservation – have been applied in varying degrees and using different institutional models, with many governments in the region favoring co-management and revenue sharing approaches, retaining a degree of control over natural resources and a large share of the income from its use. In the southern African region, national experiences illustrate that projects most likely to succeed demonstrate effective institutional frameworks; are politically supported at the highest level through appropriate CBNRM legislation and natural resources management policy; and focus on transparency and good governance at all levels of government, and within community and private sector partnerships. At a local level, community-based organizations (CBOs) that have technical, organizational and institutional capacity are better able to assume management responsibilities and enhance partnerships with public and private sector actors.
Although the majority of CBNRM activities are still wildlife and tourism related there is a gradual shift to broaden the coverage and range of these initiatives. The development of alternative livelihoods strategies (new and innovative income generation from natural resources beyond wildlife products) is thus key to furthering this discussion, and spreading the risk of wildlife revenue dependent communities. New thinking also includes integrated landscape-level natural resource management (including at transboundary level) and the use of ecosystem service accounting to justify land use choices related to conservation.
This paper which will be published and available (from mid July 2016) on SAIIA’s website provides a historical overview of CBNRM in the region, identifying the extent to which CBNRM has achieved its key dual objectives of addressing rural livelihood improvements through benefit sharing and income generation, while simultaneously addressing biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use. It looks at the evolution of CBNRM policy in the region, and highlights some of the lessons to take forward from the cases of Namibia and Botswana in strengthening community-based decision making and management for the future. There are widespread prctices and evolving lessons from the southern African region that can be strengthened to make CBNRM and CBOs more effective and beneficial, especially at household level.
Romy Chevallier, South African Institute of International Affairs, field research undertaken Botswana during 2015.