Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Linking Women's Participation and Benefits within the Namibian Community Based Natural Resource Management Program

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Linking Women's Participation and Benefits within the Namibian Community Based Natural Resource Management Program

Article excerpt

Abstract

Women are important resource users and managers and their participation in community based natural resource management activities can create a platform for their empowerment and enhance their role in decision-making, including benefit sharing. The purpose of this paper is to examine the levels of participation of women in activities Namibia's communal area conservancies and the benefits they receive. The study was carried out in four conservancies in Namibia. It reveals that women participate in diverse activities. With respect to conservancies, women's participation appears to be highest in conservancy activities where their satisfaction levels with conservancy benefits are highest. Further, women from older and less populated conservancies prioritize conservancy activities above general community engagements. Benefits to women were conservancy-specific, although game meat emerged as a prominent benefit to all conservancies. Allowing women to actively participate in initiatives that are related to their traditional roles is essential in enhancing women's participation and improved benefits, and is desired by women in all of the conservancies studied.

Keywords: women, conservancy, participation, benefits, Namibia, community based natural resource management

1. Introduction

Community-based conservation is regarded as a practical approach to stemming biodiversity loss in developing countries (Mehta & Kellert, 1998; Munthali, 2007). The community based natural resource management (CBNRM) program in Namibia is one such example, where the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity aims to allow local communities to derive direct benefits from their wildlife management efforts (Paterson et al., 2008). These benefits, (e.g. income, employment, skills, etc.) are most often derived from tourism activities (e.g. photographic tourism and/or trophy hunting), but can also be derived from other activities including hunting for own use, etc. The Namibian program has developed a reputation as one of the leading community based conservation initiatives in southern Africa (Jones & Mosimane, 2000; Jones, 2010).

While conservancies (as these Namibian community conservation areas are known) are formed to both protect biodiversity and provide opportunities for benefits to members, participation is recognized as an essential principle for any CBNRM initiative (Jones & Mosimane, 2000). This is because participation is expected to generate quality and durable decisions (Reed, 2008), while local stakeholders are assumed to be more likely to maintain their participation if they are assured that their input in collective efforts will provide them with benefits (Nuggehalli & Prokopy, 2009).

The degree to which stakeholders participate and are engaged can be thought of along a continuum of increasing stakeholder participation - participation shifts from nominal levels to interactive or empowering levels (Table 1) (Flintan, 2008; Reed, 2008). Shifts along this continuum should be underpinned by the philosophy of empowerment, equity, trust and learning (Reed, 2008), and in the latter cases, participants have a voice and influence in group decisions as well as holding leadership positions (Agarwal, 2010). With respect to CBNRM initiatives, self-mobilization is the desirable level of participation (Flintan, 2008) as it is necessary to achieving ownership, continuous participation and acquisition of knowledge, and allows participants to make choices on whether and how to participate (Sanderson & Kindon, 2004).

Participation can also be viewed as either 'planner-centered' which puts emphasis on outcomes, or 'people-centered' which deals with capacity building and empowerment of stakeholders in order to meet their needs (Reed, 2008; Nuggehalli & Prokopy, 2009). People-centered approaches are said to enable both men and women have equal potential to participate (Das, 2011), and gender balance in decision-making authorities for collective action is recognized as having both equity and efficiency implications. …

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