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Sharing power. Learning-by-doing in co-management of natural resources throughout the world

Social organisation for the management of natural resources is a fundamental attribute of human communities. Not all social responses to resource management challenges, however, achieve appropriate or effective results. Violent conflicts, extreme inequities in access to natural resources, instances of people scrambling for resources in open access situations or major development schemes delivering environmental and human tragedies too often do occur, ushering in human and environmental tragedies. What do we know about the root causes of such tragedies? What distinguishes social progress from destructive change? The analysis of the experiences collected in this volume seems to suggest that problems often arise when change is imposed by force or is hurried through, without the benefit of slow advances and testing through time. Many such changes are part of a socio-political shift of historical proportion currently well advanced throughout the world. From the early agrarian and industrial revolutions to the current dominance of the global agro-industrial-market system, peasants have been progressively reduced in relative numbers, involved in cash crop production and grown dependent on mechanised implements, oil, pesticides, fertilisers and abundant water. Nomadic pastoralists have been forced to settle and become dependent on imported feed for their animals. Hunter-gatherers have also been constrained to settle, become farmers (or “poachers”) and link to market economies. Is the phenomenon unstoppable and irreversible? Should we all resign ourselves to it? But also: is the phenomenon entirely negative and destructive? Or are there also positive changes brought about by the rise of national states, private enterprises, new technologies and globalisation?

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Borrini-Feyerabend, G., M. Pimbert, M. T. Farvar, A. Kothari and Y. Renard, Sharing Power. Learning by doing in co-management of natural resources throughout the world, IIED and IUCN/ CEESP/ CMWG, Cenesta, Tehran, 2004.