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Community-based natural resource management program (CBNRM) in Botswana : myth or reality? : stories of participation, community and governance from the Khwai Development Trust Chau, Lilian Lik

Abstract

In the spring of 2002, the author traveled to Botswana as a volunteer Community Development Assistant with the Khwai Development Trust in their activities with the national CBNRM program. During the next seven months of fieldwork, Khwai continued to experience many conflicts both internally and externally. Many of the problems were blamed on the lack of experience and capacities of villagers to manage financial and organizational resources of the Trust. However, data gathered from interviews, observations and literature reviews proposed a different theory. They pointed to the shortcomings of the fundamental assumptions used to develop policies and institutions in the CBNRM program. Rather than the lack of capacity, the thesis argues that these assumptions or "myths" have contributed greatly to the conflicts and tensions facing project villages and other CBNRM stakeholders. Using the experience of the Khwai Development Trust as a case study, the research illustrates how CBNRM assumptions of participation and community have contradicted and ignored existing realities of unequal social relationships, hierarchies of power, and local aspirations for CBNRM in rural villages. Hence policies and institutional structures developed out of these assumptions fail to consider the potentials for conflicts, or to develop the mechanisms to address existing tensions. This was evident when an institutional analysis of the program and community-based organizations identified major gaps in the ability of CBNRM to promote robust local organizations and effective rules and regulations for natural resource management. In order for CBNRM principles to become a reality, program policies and institutions should be guided not by myths, but by the knowledge and experience which is truly community-based.

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