Published on Nasikiliza

New leadership for community-based natural resource management in Mozambique

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Rural communities throughout Mozambique rely on natural resources, such as clean waters and healthy fish stocks, forests and fertile soils, for their daily livelihoods. World Bank

Night had descended and the rain that had persisted for days finally calmed when the Maputo Declaration of Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) was finally agreed upon. But the result was worth the wait.

After two, long days of discussions and presentations lauding the pros (and sharing lessons to overcome the cons) of CBNRM, the 250 participants unanimously declared their commitment to key principles, such as devolving rights over natural resources (forests, fauna and wildlife) to local communities, strengthening of community-based organizations (CBOs), and adding value to natural resources for communities (such as timber, non-timber forest products, and fish).

The benefits of CBNRM have long been expounded. Empowering communities to take ownership over the resources their livelihoods rely on, shifting the balance of power so people have a say in how their local environment is managed, and providing incentives and opportunities to stand up, speak up and influence decision-making and policy design, are widely agreed to be beneficial for healthy natural resources and sustainable natural resources. But how do we actually capture these benefits, overcome the inevitable challenges and learn from previous experiences to implement effective solutions?

Those were key preoccupations of the recent CBNRM conference. Bringing together a range of participants, from high-level government representatives, to community members and civil society, the conference spurred frank discussion on the limitations and opportunities of CBNRM, and led to the preparation of a CBNRM action plan for the coming years.

The road is long, and there is still a long way to go…

The conference marked the fifth such event in Maputo since the adoption of CBNRM 20 years ago. The country was a different place back then. Just five years after the civil war officially ended, 1997 was a year of remarkable achievements. With the passing of two new laws, the Law on Land and Law on Forest and Wildlife, came customary rights of communities to their land and the natural resources their livelihoods depended on. But 20 years on, significant challenges in implementing these laws remain.

Community land delimitation, the first step to clarifying land rights and mitigating conflict, is yet to be completed or conducted in a systematic way. Disputes remain over the classification of a community, with government entities and partners (donors and NGOs) supporting different structures at the local level, creating fragmentation and confusion. All this makes community rights to natural resources elusive and the sustainable development of natural resources for commercial purposes difficult.

Despite well-intentioned regulations, such as the mandate that a percentage of profit from forest industry and tourism in protected areas is awarded to communities, in reality, communities receive limited benefits from their local natural resources. Moreover, with high poverty and limited economic opportunity, local communities are often involved in illegal and ecologically harmful activities, such as logging and poaching.
So how can we change the situation?
Looking to the future

In an effort to address some of these issues, and support rural communities in the sustainable management of their natural resources, the World Bank is supporting the Government and local stakeholders (including the private sector and CBOs) through the Integrated Landscape and Forest Management (ILFM) Portfolio. ILFM activities support securing land tenure, land use planning, access to value chains (including rural financing and infrastructure development), commercial reforestation, land restoration, protected areas management and tourism promotion. To specifically promote CBNRM, the ILFM Portfolio, in partnership with the government, has introduced the Dedicated Grant Mechanism (MozDGM) to provide community-led grants that strengthen local ability to influence decision making and natural resource management policies that impact livelihoods.  

Although Mozambique is yet to realize the full potential of CBNRM, the conference was able to convince a new generation of Mozambican leadership how CBNRM can transform rural development by improving rural economies and protecting natural resources.

As conference participants emerged into the drizzly evening, the babble of excited chatter was at odds with the evening’s still air, so typical of Maputo’s rainy season. The process of CBNRM over the past two decades  years may have been slow, but a new energy and enthusiasm seemed to be emanating from the country’s leadership. With the support of the Bank’s ambitious ILFM Portfolio, and increased interest from other donors to join these efforts, a new beginning to CBNRM in Mozambique feels as close as the humid air.


André Rodrigues de Aquino

Lead Environmental Specialist

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