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Doing more harm than good? Community based natural resource management and the neglect of local institutions in policy development

Kamoto, J., Clarkson, G. ORCID:, Dorward, P. and Shepherd, D. (2013) Doing more harm than good? Community based natural resource management and the neglect of local institutions in policy development. Land Use Policy, 35. pp. 293-301. ISSN 0264-8377

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.06.002


Approaches to natural resource management emphasise the importance of involving local people and institutions in order to build capacity, limit costs, and achieve environmental sustainability. Governments worldwide, often encouraged by international donors, have formulated devolution policies and legal instruments that provide an enabling environment for devolved natural resource management. However, implementation of these policies reveals serious challenges. This article explores the effects of limited involvement of local people and institutions in policy development and implementation. An in-depth study of the Forest Policy of Malawi and Village Forest Areas in the Lilongwe district provides an example of externally driven policy development which seeks to promote local management of natural resources. The article argues that policy which has weak ownership by national government and does not adequately consider the complexity of local institutions, together with the effects of previous initiatives on them, can create a cumulative legacy through which destructive resource use practices and social conflict may be reinforced. In short, poorly developed and implemented community based natural resource management policies can do considerably more harm than good. Approaches are needed that enable the policy development process to embed an in-depth understanding of local institutions whilst incorporating flexibility to account for their location-specific nature. This demands further research on policy design to enable rigorous identification of positive and negative institutions and ex-ante exploration of the likely effects of different policy interventions.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of International Development
ID Code:33328


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