Action Research as a Strategy for
Natural Resource Management
This paper presents a perspective on the use of action research to manage natural resources at the community level.
Conventional natural resource management (NRM) may involve some local participation but decision-making is heavily biased toward expertise and power by centralized NRM agencies and staff; by contrast, effective community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) places strong emphasis on communitylevel institutions for managing natural resources, usually involving comanagement arrangements with NRM authorities but with decision-making biased toward local expertise. The advantages of CBNRM are increasingly recognized for situations where local people have strong interests in sustaining natural resources. However, achieving a shift from conventional NRM to CBNRM will require new knowledge, significant institutional changes, and especially, new roles and capacities by many different stakeholders in NRM and CBNRM.
Research can and should play a lead role in improving NRM, including the development of CBNRM. The challenge in NRM and especially in CBNRM is to achieve appropriate research. Conventions in research usually pose a problem for achieving appropriate research for NRM and especially for CBNRM. To understand this, one needs to examine what is meant by research, and to consider how to adapt research to ensure its appropriateness and relevance.