Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 10, pp 2551–2562 | Cite as

The strategic pillars of communal natural resource management: benefit, empowerment and conservation

  • Marshall W. MurphreeEmail author
Original Paper


Originally prepared as a keynote address for the 2008 La Tapoa Workshop on Natural Resource Management (NRM) and Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), this paper examines the Southern African experience in CBNRM over the past 20 years. From this experience the paper draws lessons on when and where CBNRM is appropriate, what can make it work, and what can make it work better. These lessons are discussed under the three categories of benefit, conservation and empowerment. Benefit is usually conceptualized in terms of financial revenue, and using a Zimbabwean case study the paper shows how in unusual circumstances this can be substantial. Normally, however, natural resource production can only supplement inputs from agriculture and other modes of production, and the paper warns against regarding CBNRM as a panacea for rural poverty. Benefit should also be understood in non-pecuniary terms, and when economic benefit is linked with authority and responsibility large increments in social capital can result. The conservation interests of donors are often perceived as being at odds with local perspectives, a perception which fails to take into consideration means-end-sequencing. A socially constructed stalemate often occurs when external agencies impose their agendas upon local populations, a stalemate which can be broken when communities are given the authority and responsibility necessary to create internally legitimate regimes. A new science which combines professional and civil inputs is required to achieve CBNRM’s goal—empowered and dynamic local regimes integrated into larger scale systems of conservation and development.


Keynote address Communal Community Natural resources Management Benefit Empowerment Conservation CBNRM 


  1. Ake C (2000) The feasability of democracy in Africa. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, DakarGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrow E, Murphree M (2001) Community conservation: from concept to practice. In: Hulme D, Murphree M (eds) African wildlife and livelihoods. James Currey, Oxford, pp 24–37Google Scholar
  3. CAMPFIRE Monitoring and Evaluation Data Base (various years) Harare: WWFGoogle Scholar
  4. Christoffersen N, Campbell C, du Toit J (eds) (1998) Communities and sustainable use: Pan-African perspectives. IUCN, HarareGoogle Scholar
  5. Constantin F (1998) Nihil Novi sub sole: natural resources, popular participation and public policy in Africa, in Christoffersen N et al., Communities and sustainable use: Pan-African perspectives. Harare: IUCN, pp.8–18Google Scholar
  6. Dzomba T (2000) Basic information: CAMPFIRE. Kanyurira Ward 11, Guruwe Rural District Council. Typescript 5 ppGoogle Scholar
  7. Jones B (2000) The evolution of a community-based approach to wildlife management at Kunene, Namibia. In: Hulme D, Murphree M (eds) African wildlife and livelihoods. James Currey, Oxford, pp 160–176Google Scholar
  8. Lee K (1993) Compass and gyroscope. Integrating science and politics for the environment. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Masoka Ward Wildlife Records (Various years)Google Scholar
  10. Murphree MW (1993) Communities as resource management institutions. IIED, Gatekeeper Series No. 36, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Murphree MW (1997) Congruent objectives, competing interests and strategic compromise. Concept and process in Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE programme. Paper presented to the conference on “Representing Communities: Histories and Politics of Community-Based Resource Management” Helen, GeorgiaGoogle Scholar
  12. Rihoy E (ed) (1995) The commons without the tragedy? strategies for community-based natural resources management in Southern Africa. USAID, LilongweGoogle Scholar
  13. Ruitenbeek J, Cartier C (2001) The invisible wand: adaptive co-management as an emergent strategy in complex bio-economic systems. CIFOR, BogorGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Applied Social SciencesUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe

Personalised recommendations