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Local governance institutions for sustainable natural resource management in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger

04 / 07 / 2008, Eldis Biodiversity

This paper reflects on experiences from research and interventions in the Sahel on management of renewable natural resources - soils, water, forests, and biodiversity - for the purpose of food and income generation. It focuses on local governance institutions in relation to natural resource entitlements, use and decision-making on management in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The study explores the range of existing local governance institutions that is best managed at this level for each resource type, prevailing local institutions for governing natural resources and trends. Particular attention is paid to the influence of customary institutions, project interventions, and democratic decentralisation. It is argued that development agencies can play a role in strengthening local governance institutions for sustainable natural resource management by:

holding governments to account for the policies it has signed up to as part of agreements around sector and budget support
contributing to a more conducive policy context for decentralised management of natural resources and local governance institutions, by supporting the governments of the three countries in finalising the legislation that is being planned, developing the accompanying decrees and procedures, and supporting implementation and monitoring the effects, such as on women and marginal groups
encouraging policy alignment and harmonisation, for example through the linking of decentralisation policy with natural resource management, environmental protection and land administration
improving the quality of policy implementation through occasional support to pilot activities to promote the testing of new approaches on institutional solutions to natural resource-related problems in different contexts

The paper concludes that effective local governance institutions for natural resource management contribute to sustainability, local economic development, and conflict prevention. The need for such institutions is increasing, given the growing pressure on, and competition over, land and natural resources. The authors argue that policies in support of natural resource management benefit from pooling knowledge and research, joint strategy development and division of labour amongst development partners. Ultimately, they argue, such policies will be judged on the extent to which these strengthen local capacities to manage and use natural resources in a sustainably way and enhance justice in natural resource governance.

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