Author: Katrin Taylor
Title: Where Seeing is Believing: Exploring and Reflecting upon the Implications for Community Based Natural Resource Management
Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) is a development Initiative that combines conservation and rural development It seeks to provide a conducive socio-economic environment in which messages of conservation have a real and effective voice. Implementing such an initiative is a difficult and complex process. No community is homogeneous, and therefore fair representation of its diverse members is difficult to achieve. An examination of a number of villages about to embark upon CBNRM in the Okavango Delta, northeastern Botswana, revealed that many villagers do not have a good understanding of what the project entails. Indeed, it is apparent that the process of consulting the communities on the issues involved in the programme has met with many obstacles. Furthermore, even where the concepts of CBNRM may be understood, some villagers hold a sceptical view of its outworking and place the conditionality of seeing its benefits before they believe in them. Past and present experiences of people's lives expose a sense of powerlessness and distrust of not only the government and other outsiders, but also among the hierarchies that exist within the communities. Many villagers are therefore sceptical that resources such as wildlife will be returned to the community, and that CBNRM will bring benefit. Mechanisms to dispel project scepticism are required, so that a broader base of participation is achieved. Participation is essential to foster local ownership of the project and therefore'ensure its sustainability. There exists an inherent danger that a vocal minority may assume ownership of the programme, based on their knowledge of it and their position of power in society. Measures that encourage broader participation in the project are thus required in order to curb elitism. Although not absolute solutions in themselves, such measures include; an increased understanding of the concepts involved, more immediate benefits that encourage trust, and commitment and support from organisations or individuals.