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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Communal Approaches to Natural Resource Management in Africa: Whence and to Where?


Communal approaches to natural resource management have developed since the 1980s from a relatively untested set of conceptual stances to achieve the status of conventional wisdom in much development discourse. However, communal approaches have also come under attack, both from donor agencies impatient with the lack of evidence of immediate and positive results, and from scholarship in the narrative-counternarrative mode. The topic also has broader significance for the evolution of governance in Africa. What is happening in communal approaches to natural resource management provides in large measure a surrogate picture of elements of this evolution.

This article offers a brief and selective survey of the origins, objectives, and limitations of communal approaches to natural resource management, and it offers five characteristics deemed essential for the future development of this body of work. It also functions as a commentary on other essays in the UCIAS Digital Collection arising from the 2004 Breslauer Symposium on Natural Resource Issues in Africa.

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