Assessing participatory practices in community-based natural resource management: Experiences in community engagement from southern Africa

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


  • J. Dyer
  • L. C. Stringer
  • A. J. Dougill
  • J. Leventon
  • M. Nshimbi
  • F. Chama
  • A. Kafwifwi
  • J. I. Muledi
  • J. M K Kaumbu
  • M. Falcao
  • S. Muhorro
  • F. Munyemba
  • G. M. Kalaba
  • S. Syampungani

The emphasis on participatory environmental management within international development has started to overcome critiques of traditional exclusionary environmental policy, aligning with shifts towards decentralisation and community empowerment. However, questions are raised regarding the extent to which participation in project design and implementation is meaningful and really engages communities in the process. Calls have been made for further local-level (project and community-scale) research to identify practices that can increase the likelihood of meaningful community engagement within externally initiated projects. This paper presents data from three community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) project case studies from southern Africa, which promote Joint Forest Management (JFM), tree planting for carbon and conservation agriculture. Data collection was carried out through semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, community-level meetings, focus groups and interviews. We find that an important first step for a meaningful community engagement process is to define 'community' in an open and participatory manner. Two-way communication at all stages of the community engagement process is shown to be critical, and charismatic leadership based on mutual respect and clarity of roles and responsibilities is vital to improve the likelihood of participants developing understanding of project aims and philosophy. This can lead to successful project outcomes through community ownership of the project goals and empowerment in project implementation. Specific engagement methods are found to be less important than the contextual and environmental factors associated with each project, but consideration should be given to identifying appropriate methods to ensure community representation. Our findings extend current thinking on the evaluation of participation by making explicit links between the community engagement process and project outcomes, and by identifying further criteria that can be considered in process and outcome-based evaluations. We highlight good practices for future CBNRM projects which can be used by project designers and initiators to further the likelihood of successful project outcomes.

ZeitschriftJournal of Environmental Management
Seiten (von - bis)137-145
Anzahl der Seiten9
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.05.2014