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From hope to crisis and back again? A critical history of the global CBNRM narrative

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 June 2010

School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia
Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands Department of Geography, Environmental Management & Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University, USA
Institute for Development Management and Policy, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Institute for Public Service, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA
School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
E-mail address:


Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) has been on the ascendancy for several decades and plays a leading role in conservation strategies worldwide. Arriving out of a desire to rectify the human costs associated with coercive conservation, CBNRM sought to return the stewardship of biodiversity and natural resources to local communities through participation, empowerment and decentralization. Today, however, scholars and practitioners suggest that CBNRM is experiencing a crisis of identity and purpose, with even the most positive examples experiencing only fleeting success due to major deficiencies. Six case studies from around the world offer a history of how and why the global CBNRM narrative has unfolded over time and space. While CBNRM emerged with promise and hope, it often ended in less than ideal outcomes when institutionalized and reconfigured in design and practice. Nevertheless, despite the current crisis, there is scope for refocusing on the original ideals of CBNRM: ensuring social justice, material well-being and environmental integrity.

THEMATIC SECTION: Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM): designing the next generation (Part 1)
Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2010

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