Abstract for: Empowering Communities: Power devolution in Community-Based Natural Resource Management

Community-based Natural Resource Management is considered a democratic approach for the management of ecosystems through the development and empowerment of local communities. However, results of such initiatives have been somewhat ambivalent. One identified consideration has been on the optimal devolution of power for CBNRM programs to the communities they pertain to. In this paper, we present a System Dynamics model aiming to explore the issue of power devolution in CBNRM initiatives and how it leads to variations in their success rate. Our model was able to exhibit that communities do benefit from higher levels of power over the initiatives, although the level of coherence of the community emerges as a major factor influencing the optimal level of management at the communal level. Moreover, the “timing” when the power transference takes place is also significant: if power is transferred quickly from external actors to the community, the initiative may suffer due to the lack of proper capital formation. The interplay between target levels of power in the community and devolution timing is significant: higher target devolution benefits from slower, more adaptive forms of transference while lower target devolution benefits most from faster transference of power by external actors to the communities.