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Look before you leap

Look before you leap
An analysis of some of the consequences of state devolution in land and resource tenure

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Date of publication
September 2001
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This paper argues that the focus in the community based natural resource management (CBNRM) literature on the devolution and decentralisation of state authority and responsibility over natural resources to communities does not pay sufficient attention to the role of the state in creating and maintaining a coherent institutional environment. This is particularly important where many institutions are involved in a community in the processes for asserting, justifying and realising tenure rights, which can lead to overlapping and competing rights to land and resources. Forced to deal with the risk of such confusion escalating into open conflict, communities may adopt risk minimising decisions and strategies. These include relinquishing control over the resource, which results in open access, or trading the entitlements of democracy in the face of dominant structures and people monopolising de facto control. This defeats the purpose of both community based natural resource management and the state's intention to strengthen democracy at local level. To prevent this, the state should devolve authority responsibly through developing and supporting coherent institutional arrangements that widen choices for decisions at local level.

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Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

Donna Hornby, Thelma Trench with Ruari Alcock

Geographical focus