The effects of communal land resource management on forest conservation in northern and north-eastern Namibia

Watts S. (2003)


The area under natural forests has diminished steadily while deforestation has escalated progressively in the past 10 years. Strategic constraints leading to this ever-increasing rate of forest depletion are examined, and relevant policy interventions for overturning them are suggested. Communal ownership and management of natural resources in the northern and north-eastern Namibia are identified as a major underlying constraint on natural resource conservation because the communal system lacks mechanisms for regulating access. Nonetheless, the study acknowledges the optimistic views on communal use and management in other parts of the world. The assumptions about community, the willingness of its members to realise joint environmental or social goals, and their motivation and skills for natural resource management have been challenged. The perception that communities are custodial and non-materialistic in their attitudes to natural resources is rejected. It is concluded that common resources should be brought under more formal management. There should be a state-community/private partnership, with the state performing an advisory function, and implementation at the highest level through the use of state institutions for law enforcement, while the community or the private interest undertakes day-to-day management and law enforcement activities. Maintaining state ownership of natural resources in communal areas and inviting local people to manage them on their own, or mainly on government terms, is not a solution to natural resource degradation.

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