Assessing cooperative environmental governance systems : the cases of the Kogelberg Biosphere reserve and the Olifants-Doorn catchment Management Agency
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Against a background of institutional fragmentation and lack of coordination among the respective role players, the notion of co-management of natural resources has emerged in many countries around the world as the most promising institutional prospect for resolving resource conflicts and building partnerships in conservation and management between local actors and government authorities. In South Africa, like elsewhere, the fragmentation and lack of coordination among the various executing agencies represent a significant hurdle and a barrier to successfully integrated environmental governance. Following international trends, and supported by the constitutional vision of cooperative governance and the transformation agenda of the government – which created an openness to new and alternative service-delivery mechanisms – innovative new networked regional and community-based natural resource governance systems emerged in the late 1990s. These new forms of cooperative management of natural resources, and in particular the role of networks and partnerships, have led to a new and growing general interest in evaluating cooperative environmental governance systems. Following a broadly institutionalist approach, which is useful for studying situations of governance where policy formulation and implementation involve a wide range of actors, a diagnostic tool was developed to facilitate opportunities for organisational and social learning. The perceived usefulness of having such a tool was put to the test by applying it to two case studies in the Western Cape, namely the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and the Olifants-Doorn Catchment Management Agency. In this article the characteristics of two evolving environmental governance systems are mapped, using the framework to assess and refine its usefulness in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of building social capital and institutional capacity in decentralised and networked governance settings.