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Community-based resource management can help adaptation to climate change – Researchers

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Researchers have found that Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) methods of conservation can inform strategies for communities to become more resilient to climate challenges such as droughts, floods, extreme temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns.

A report published by the International Institute for Environmental Development (IIED) this week, says this revolutionary approach to conservation and development pioneered in southern Africa, provides vital lessons that can help communities worldwide adapt to climate change.

The eight key lessons identified by researchers on CBNRM for community based adaptation, are that blending strategies for sustainable livelihoods and resource management can make communities more resilient and able to adapt to climate shocks, and that local capacity can decide whether communities can overcome climate threats.

Others are that incentives must be direct and visible, sustainable household cash incomes will enhance a community’s capacity to adapt, community adaptation projects should build on traditional institutions – not just create new ones, while institutions for community based adaptation should include all relevant stakeholders.

The rest are that traditional leadership can be an important symbol for community ownership, while trust matters between communities and their leaders, and between leaders and project teams are vital.

According to IIED, CBNRM is based on an incentive-driven notion that assumes that communities will manage their natural resources better, and in ways that also result in poverty reduction, if they are in control of those resources and derive direct economic benefits from them.

This approach to conservation and development, the institute says, has enabled communities to cope with a range of stresses.

IIED also states that four key elements form the foundations of CBNRM, which are; sustainable use, devolution of management decisions from government to local institutions, collective control and legal rights over resources, and economic incentives that enhance the value of resources to communities that conserve them.

Researcher Muyeye Chambwera who together with colleagues studied examples of Community-Based Natural Resource Management over the past three decades to enable communities control and benefit from local wildlife, forests, water and other resources, maintains that “CBNRM has been a success when it has created processes and institutions that devolve power from central government, create tangible benefits for communities and allow the people themselves to take charge of their own development.”

Chambwera states further, that “These factors will all be critical to the success of communities as they strive to adapt to climate change.”

He adds that “To succeed, long-term adaptation to climate change will depend on locally-based and proven approaches rather than top-down interventions that are driven by central governments or outside aid agencies, and which depend on external resources.” “That’s where CBNRM can provide useful models for community-based adaptation. In fact both systems can work hand-in-hand and strengthen each other,” Chambwera stresses.

After three decades of experience, CBNRM is now operating at local, national and regional levels, but the IIED report says for community based adaptation to climate change to become as well established at such scales, it will need financial incentives, enabling policies, research, communication and people who will champion the approach.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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