New development mantra
Rajesh Kumar Aggarwal

Community-Based Natural Resource Management: Issues and Cases from South Asia
by Ajit Menon, Praveen Singh, Esha Shah, Sharachchandra Lele, Suhas Paranjape and
K. J. Joy. Sage Publications. Pages 362. Rs 450.

Community-Based Natural Resource Management: Issues and Cases from South AsiaThe community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is a wider shift from the state-driven development to a civil society-driven development. Recently, it has emerged as a significant concept because involving the local communities ensures environmental sustainability, social justice and efficacy of the programmes undertaken. CBNRM includes both individual sector programmes such as forestry, irrigation and wildlife management, and multi-sectoral programmes, including watershed development or rural livelihoods development, with or without donor support.

Giving details about the working of non-government organisations (NGOs)-driven CBNRM, the book dwells on six case studies which are considered to be ‘innovative’ or ‘successful’ initiatives. The case studies chosen are watershed development in Hivre Bazar, Maharashtra; Utthan’s watershed development work in Nathugarh village in Gujarat; Tarun Bhagat Sangh’s (TBS) revival of water-harvesting structures in Gopalpura, Rajasthan; RNR Research Centre Bajo’s watershed development programme in the Lingmuteychhu Watershed in Bhutan; the multi-sectoral work of Doodha Toli Lok Vikas Sansthan (DTLVS) in Paudi Gardwal, Uttarakhand and the sustainable environment management programme implemented by Gono Chetona (GC) in the Chars of Northern Bangladesh.

The case studies cited illustrate how organisations adopted and implemented CBNRM strategies in distinct ways. However, the main focus of all the initiatives remain on livelihood enhancement by way of improvements in availability of livelihood support resources (fuelwood, fodder and drinking water), increased productivity in agriculture and allied activities, including diversification of cropping pattern and creating new avenues of employment and income generation.

The authors empirically elaborate how the gains accrued along the livelihood enhancement dimension are prominent but those along the sustainability and equity dimensions are mixed or limited. Whereas one-time resource regeneration has taken place in most cases, the long-term sustainability of these regenerated resources has been harder to address. Likewise, inter-village equity—either in economic terms or caste terms—has not been a strong dimension of most of these interventions, even though the impact is visible on gender front in few of the cases.

In the implementation of CBNRM, though the people’s participation level is much higher than many state-implemented programmes, transferring real control over resources to communities and internal democratisation of community level decision-making processes is yet to be implemented.

Successful implementation of CBNRM depends upon the policies and priorities of the state, donor agencies, duration of the project, community building and post-implementation follow-up. Nevertheless, it remains a vital component how the problem has been perceived and what role is assigned to different stakeholders.

The book is based on thorough research and gives valuable insights into the NGOs-led CBNRM besides listing some innovative experiments by these agencies. It not only gives a critical theoretical perspective within a comparative framework of the diverse forms of works undertaken by these NGOs but also presents a perspective on the future role and aspirations of these NGOs.