Enchantment And Disenchantment: The Role Of Community In Natural Resource Conservation

The poor conservation outcomes that followed decades of intrusive resource management strategies and planned development have forced policy makers and scholars to reconsider the role of community in resource use and conservation. In a break from previous work on development which considered communities to hinder progressive social change, current writing champions the role of community in bringing about decentralization, meaningful participation, cultural autonomy, and conservation (Chambers and McBeth, 1992; Chitere, 1994; Etzioni, 1996). But despite its recent popularity, the concept of community rarely receives the attention or analysis it needs from those concerned with resource use and management.
We seek to redress this omission by investigating -community- in work concerning resource conservation and management. We begin by exploring the conceptual origins of the community, especially as it relates to writings on resource use. The ensuing analysis reveals that three aspects of community are most important to those who advocate a positive role for communities in resource management -community as a small spatial unit, as a homogenous social structure, and as shared norms. We suggest a more political approach. Community, we argue, must be examined in the context of conservation by focusing on the multiple interests and actors within communities, on how these actors influence decisionmaking, and on the internal and external institutions that shape the decision-making process. A focus on institutions rather than -community- is likely to be more fruitful for those interested in community-based natural resource management. We conclude by suggesting that research and policy move away from universalist claims either for or against community. Instead, community-based conservation initiatives must be founded on images of community that recognize their internal di€erences and processes, their relations with external actors, and the institutions that a€ect both.
Autores: Arun Agrawal y Clark C. Gibson