Assessing Community Nature Resource Management


Dani Simons: F & ES

Advisor: Florencia Montagnini


Are traditional nature reserves still relevant in a world where it is impossible to draw a physical line between where people live and where nature resides? Recent trends in natural resource management have given more control to local communities to manage the resources upon which their social and economic well being depend. This trend is a result in an overall shift in conservation and development towards more participatory methods that attempt to build solutions from the ground up instead of from the top down. In the last five years however, natural and social scientists have questioned some community nature resource management (CNRM) projects asking if they have indeed met their social, economic and biological goals. One important finding is that many CNRM projects fail to monitor their own progress, so in many cases we cannot say whether a project has been successful or what might need improvement.

I am interested in exploring whether or not CNRM are successful at protecting landscape integrity and biodiversity as compared with:

  1. land use management plans that are devised at the state or national level and implemented by local people
  2. land use management that is devised at the state or national level and implemented by national or state authorities
Specifically I intend to examine three sites in the Brazilian state of Acre in the Amazon rain forest: an extractive reserve developed by local rubber tapper cooperatives and managed by local people in cooperation with the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA), an extractive reserve developed by the Brazilian Agrarian Reform Agency (INCRA), a national agency that promotes human colonization of the Amazon, and a nature reserve designed and managed solely by IBAMA.

I hypothesize that locally based land management will be more effective at protecting the integrity of the landscape, but that the nationally designed and managed nature reserve will have higher biodiversity.

I will compare these sites using a combination of remote sensing and ecological and sociological ground truthing. I will use a time series of remotely sensed images to capture information about land use both before and after the establishment of the reserves. Interviews with local people will also be used to obtain information about land use history of the sites. My data will be analyzed using a geographical information system (GIS).

Finally I hope to develop a monitoring protocol that will be useful to local land use managers on the ground at the sites I am studying. I will hold a workshop during the field portion of my research to learn about local techniques for monitoring and to teach local people about some low tech ways to utilize the high tech potential of remotely sensed data to monitor the success of their reserves.

This research will be useful in answering questions about the biological value of community based resource management programs. It will also begin to develop a protocol whereby local communities can assess their own success in meeting conservation goals and use these assessments as part of an iterative planning process. This work will contribute to the research currently underway by Christiane Ehringhaus of F&ES.

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12 December 2002