Uganda's Local Council and the Management of Commons: An Attempt of Theoretical Reassessment

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"Environmental degradation is a global concern, and developing countries including African are no exception. It is perhaps very ironical to observe the coexistence of rich wildlife and stark poverty of the majority of Africans. Thus, environmental issues in Africa and elsewhere are entangled with economic as well as socio-political issues, and any solution requires a comprehensive approach for effectiveness and sustainability. "Debate between 'conservation' and 'development' in Africa carries historical legacies. The post-independence state apparatus were largely centralized, because at that time the 'strong state' was considered to serve national integration and economic growth. Even when wildlife and other natural resources were valued, conservation was practiced usually in a 'top-down' manner. Central authorities imposed restrictions of resource use, often without prior notice to local residents. It was no surprise that local residents showed little cooperation with conservation authorities. "This 'fortress conservation' approach has proved undoubtedly ineffective. This realization has promoted a new thinking on how to achieve sustainable development balancing environmental concerns and poverty alleviation requirements. Consequently, it came to be realized that natural resource management would become more effective with inclusive consultation processes with local resource users. Thus a new notion of 'community conservation' has replaced the earlier approach of 'fortress conservation.' Community conservation can be defined as policies and practices that grant greater involvement in management processes of diverse natural resources and that attempt to give residents close to precious resource more equitable benefit in such processes (Hulme and Murphree, 2001b, p. 4). A main rationale of community conservation is that this approach would induce more cooperative attitudes by local residents on conservation activities, which in turn becomes more effective in the long run. "In addition, in parallel to the shift in natural resource management, there has been an important change in thinking about development administration. Especially since around the 1990s, there has been some sort of decentralization reforms implemented in the world, including the developing countries. As a result, participatory development aimed for sustainability became to be combined with the decentralized state. Because environmental issues differ widely from one area to another, local-level management is more suitable to meet different local requirements (Barrow et al., 2000, p. 144). Decentralized management is deemed more appropriate for facilitating community conservation (Dubois and Lowore, 2000; Fortmann et al., 2001; Ribot, 1999, 2001, and 2002; Okoth-Ogendo and Tumushabe, 1999). Various donors and international NGOs have therefore advocated this approach, and several projects were implemented subsequently. As a result, community conservation, by the end of 1990s, has now almost become a 'new orthodoxy,' particularly in Africa (Adams and Hulme, 2001, p. 18; Barrow et al., 2000)."



IASC, conservation, participatory management, economic development