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Quality validation date:2011-04-14
The commons is a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest. Many Southern African natural resources are legally recognised as commons and the focus of the CROSCOG was sharing research on the governance of the commons in that region. The governance of commons in Southern Africa has received a good deal of attention from both researchers and the responsible government agencies. While considerable research has been carried out in respect to commons governance within specific sectors, there is a real need for sharing information about effective commons governance across different ecosystem types, including marine and other large water body coastal zones, arid and semi-arid grasslands, savannas and woody patches, and floodplain ecosystems. CROSCOG built on existing research on commons governance done by institutions specialising in particular resource management problems. It took as its starting point the insight that addressing natural resource degradation in Africa means finding ways to identify reproduce and encourage existing positive practices of commons management across wide scales.
The CROSCOG project was carried out in two phases each with its own theme:
- Knowledge, power, economic transformation and existing commons practices; and,
- Building on existing practices to achieve effective governance across extensive scales.
For each theme a series of papers was produced by the network. During Theme 1 these papers were focused on one of 10 particular cases each representing a particular ecosystem type. During Theme 2 some purely case-based work continued, but there were also some comparative papers that focussed on cross-case issues that emerged as interesting during the Theme 1 discussions. These cross-case issues included tourism and the commons, the commons and addressing historical discrimination, and co-management institutions and the commons.
The contractors on the CROSCOG project included stakeholders from Botsowana, Denmark, Malawi, Netherlands, South Africa and Zambia.
The specific objectives of CROSCOG were to create a network of researchers and practitioners on commons governance that reaches across the boundaries of particular resources and eco-systems. It was also to identify and share lessons from recent research about encouraging positive conservation practices across large areas and management multiple-use commons with a comprehensive eco-system based approach. CROSCOG aimed to share these lessons with a broad audience including the global scientific community, policymakers in Southern Africa, and local communities in Southern Africa through specific, targeted outreach efforts.
Outcomes in respect to the creation of a Network
To meet the first objective, CROSCOG sponsored four networking events. Two of these events focussed on building the CROSCOG network and two of them focussed on reaching out towards building a larger concerned with managing African commons.
The first event was the CROSCOG kick-off meeting in Cape Town in April 2007. It brought together members of our advisory panel and scholars working on fisheries, grass lands, and flood plains commons in Southern Africa. The kick-off meeting lasted three days and, while project planning certainly received sufficient attention, even more time was spent in exchanging substantive ideas.
The second event focussed on the CROSCOG network was, the Theme 1 workshop, which took place in Maun, Botswana in December 2007, again bringing members of the advisory committee together with the people working in the field. Presentations on all cases were made and presenters received feedback from the group.
The first event that focussed on reaching our towards a large commons community was the presentation of CROSCOG papers at the Biennial meeting of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) in Cheltenham, England in July of 2008. Through this event the CROSCOG work was able to reach a large international audience of scholars and practitioners interested in commons governance.
Finally, in January of 2009, the Theme 2 workshop was expanded into a major dissemination event through attracting co-sponsorship and policy makers, scholars and practitioners from all over Southern Africa. This Policy Event took place in Cape Town. The nine themes of the Policy Event were:
- Knowledge, power, and existing commons practices
- Building on existing practices to achieve effective commons governance across extensive scales.
- African Commons and Tourism.
- African commons and redressing historical discrimination, particularly in respect to race and gender.
- Recent challenges to management of the commons such as HIV/AIDS.
- Traditional institutions and the governance of African commons.
- Contribution to food security of the African commons.
- Implications of urbanisation and commercialisation for the African commons.
- Good Governance, Accountability and the Commons
Outcomes in respect to Identifying and Sharing Lessons
The project released a host of papers and publications relevant to each of these themes. After the presentation of research by the CROSCOG team and others at the Policy Event two workshops were held to summarise the main messages. These messages became the basis of the dissemination work at the community and policy levels, discussed in the next section, and can also stand as a summary of the substantive conclusions of the CROSCOG project.
Messages to communities
Commons are life: You know how important the commons are to your livelihoods. Be strong and active in defending your commons and promoting ways to use and manage them sustainably to benefit local people.
You can take the lead: Communities do not always have to be the passive recipients or objects of outside policies, programmes and interventions. It is possible for communities to take the initiative towards outside authorities, pushing their own ideas and agendas without always needing to be in reactive mode. Build collaborative platforms and coalitions between communities to represent your interests to outside authorities. Negotiate strongly with the state and the private sector when the acquisition or use of your resources is proposed - protect your interests! Seek advice and support from NGOs or other facilitators to strengthen your positions.
Your science is valid: Rural people have valuable environmental knowledge that deserves as much respect as the knowledge of outside scientists. Treasure and build on the environmental science in your community. Seek ways to apply it and to merge it with outside science.
Build on the strengths of your local institutions: Look for strengths in your existing local institutions for the management of natural resources - including your customary law - and advocate the roles of these local institutions where these can make an equitable and effective contribution to sustainable land use and livelihoods.
Seek ways to use the opportunities provided by local government: Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your local government systems. For example, it may be possible to enact district council bylaws that will help you to govern your natural resources. Exploit whatever opportunities existing legislation and institutional structures may offer you.
Messages to NGOs: The governance of the commons can succeed in southern Africa. There are many cases of successful governance of the southern African commons: programmes, projects and strategies that have benefited rural people in an environmentally sustainable way. Learn all you can about these successes, and help communities to learn about them too.
Co-learning with communities: Be ready to learn from and with communities, seeking insights into their systems of environmental knowledge, customary law and governance. Work with communities to build space for adaptive learning and management, deepening local scientific knowledge and building management systems that do not automatically depend only on exogenous science.
Create space for dialogue: Seek ways to create space and platforms for dialogue between stakeholders and interest groups within communities so as to build consensus and strengthen community positions for negotiation with outside authorities.
Help build coalitions: Communities can take the lead, but need support in building dialogue, coalitions and joint platforms to formulate and promote their interests and strategies towards outside agencies. They can be more effective when they scale up horisontally and take strong joint positions.
Avoid multiplication of local institutions: Communities suffer when each agency or project invents a new committee for forestry, conservation, water, wildlife or whatever. Work through existing structures whenever feasible and appropriate.
Help build community initiatives and authority: Respect community level institutions and initiatives. Help them build their political power in the natural resource management arena, to strengthen their profile vis-a-vis external authorities. This has economic and operational advantages: community resource management is often cheaper and better respected than the enforcement of statute law by outside agencies. Customary law may still have a significant role to play in this regard.
Ensure community benefits: Ensure that all conservation initiatives generate tangible benefits for local people and that these outweigh the costs that they impose on the community. Help them appraise proposals for commoditisation of their commons critically and to resist interventions that threaten their livelihoods. Develop NGO skills to support communities in negotiating hard deals with the state and the private sector that assure and promote community interests.
Seek profound simplicity and apply those insights: Avoid overly theoretical or scientific approaches. Do not automatically use templates for community consultation and involvement. Take time to learn and appreciate the profound realities and to express their operational implications in simple and practicable terms.
The power of maps: Help communities to counter outside constructions and mappings of their realities: use new technologies to help integrate and combine their spatial and environmental perceptions into larger scale maps of resources and management priorities.
Messages to policymakers
The commons are ecological systems that are critical for livelihoods: Most ecological systems are commons and shaped by human use that must be managed. This is true from local fisheries and grasslands to global commons such as the atmosphere. Commons play a critical role in livelihoods and ecological systems even at relatively higher scales. For example, forest commons on the local level make an important contribution to solving problems of climate change that are themselves a global-scale commons. Commons need protection and the state alone cannot provide this protection. This requires local involvement (meeting basic needs and promoting fair access to resources through effective policies).
The government's responsibility in enabling local involvement: Community structures need to be legally empowered instead of repeating the all too frequent tendency to criminalise livelihoods through micro-management of the commons. Policymakers need to reinforce the critical role played by local communities and customary practices because they reflect the community's various moral, social, political, and economic incentives that drive human behaviour. Government achieves its objectives when problems are solved by local communities. The role that government must play is ensuring that these processes are transparent, fair and legitimate.
Scaling up existing practices is a key to sustainable commons: Large scale and complex commons can in fact be managed when local people are involved. Governments should start with what they find on the ground. Some actions tear commons down while others preserve and sustain them; it is these latter actions, these practices of sustainable commons management, which must be replicated to meet the challenge of large scale and complex commons.
Section 2: Dissemination of Knowledge
The messages identified above have been and are being directed to specific audiences including community members, policy makers, and NGO working in sustainable development. The most important dissemination activity was the Policy Event in Cape Town which was attended by policy people as well as scholars from across Southern African and with some representation from Eastern Africa and Europe. The community and NGO messages are being distributed through a community information sheet and by radio broadcasts that have taken place in Zambia and Botswana. The NGO and policymaker messages have been published as one of the well-known PLAAS policy brief series and have been disseminated through that organisation's policy network.
Section 3: Publishable Results
CROSCOG has produced and submitted a total of 23 scholarly papers. These included two overall theme papers that pulled together information from all cases. It also included three cross-case comparisons on special themes: tourism, redressing historical discrimination in pelagic fisheries, and fisheries co-management. The remainder of the papers described lessons coming from specific cases of commons management.
Final Report - CROSCOG (Cross Sectoral Commons Governance in Southern Africa)
Cross sectoral commons governance in Southern Africa
Region: DANMARK Danmark Nordjyllands amt
Subject index:Agriculture, Environmental Protection
Subject descriptors:Ecology, Land use planning, Feedback controls, Conservation