The performance obstacles surrounding community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) in southern Africa have much to do with understanding of environmental governance systems and how these are devolved. CBNRM appears to be failing because of flawed environmental governance systems compounded by their ineffective devolution. A case study in Zambia is used to illustrate why and how one CBNRM scheme for the most part faltered. It draws on practical experiences involving the devolution of decision-making and benefit-distribution processes on a floodplain wetland known as the Kafue Flats. While this CBNRM scheme was designed to facilitate the devolution of key components of an environmental governance system, the resultant efforts were largely unsuccessful because of the poor social relationships between government actors and local rural communities. It is argued that in Zambia, at least from an environmental governance system perspective, CBNRM has mostly failed. While generally bringing some marginal improvements to local communities, the construction and execution of an effective environmental governance system have been largely flawed.
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