Empowering Local People through Community-based Resource Monitoring: a Comparison of Brazil and Namibia
Biological resource monitoring systems are implemented in many countries and often depend on the participation of local people. It has been suggested that these systems empower local participants while promoting conservation. We reviewed three wildlife monitoring systems in indigenous lands and sustainable development reserves in Brazilian Amazonia and one in Namibian Caprivi conservancies, analyzing the strategies adopted and conditions that facilitated local empowerment, as well as potential impacts on conservation. This provided insights into potential avenues to strengthen empowerment outcomes of monitoring systems in Latin America and Africa. We assessed four dimensions of empowerment at individual and community scales: psychological, social, economic, and political. The conditions that facilitated local empowerment included the value of natural resources, rights to trade and manage resources, political organization of communities, and collaboration by stakeholders. The wide range of strategies to empower local people included intensifying local participation, linking them to local education, feeding information back to communities, purposefully selecting participants, paying for monitoring services, marketing monitored resources, and inserting local people into broader politics. Although communities were socially and politically empowered, the monitoring systems more often promoted individual empowerment. Marketing of natural resources promoted higher economic empowerment in conservancies in Namibia, whereas information dissemination was better in Brazil because of integrated education programs. We suggest that practitioners take advantage of local facilitating conditions to enhance the empowerment of communities, bearing in mind that increasing autonomy to make management decisions may not agree with international conservation goals. Our comparative analysis of cases in Latin America and Africa allows for a greater understanding of the relationships between resource monitoring systems, local empowerment, and conservation. Keywords: Acre, Amazônas, Caprivi, community participation, decentralization, indigenous people, protected area, wildlife management.
Ecology and Society