Empowering communities to manage natural resources: where does the new power lie? A case study of Duru – Haitemba, Babati, Tanzania

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Recent approaches to community – based natural resource management appear diverse as their varied implementing agencies and natural resource settings; yet they rest on a set of common assumptions about community, natural resources and the relationship between them. This paper focuses on power relations between actors and how these set the framework for resource management in Duru – Haitemba. As one of the few remain ing tracts of miombo woodlands, Duru – Haitemba woodlands had been targeted for gazettement. However the exercise faced “local discontent”. The discontent has its origin in the “generalised narrative”. Before the coming of colonial powers the community lived in balanced harmony with nature. But when this harmony was disrupted, it led to disequilibria and hence degradation. A range of factors may be called to account, including: technological change; the breakdown of traditional authority; social change; urban aspirations and the intrusion of inappropriate state policies. What is required is to bring community and environment back into harmony. This requires either the discovery and rebuilding of traditional collective resource management institutions or their replacement by new ones. At the local level there are two factions competing for power: the elites and the traditionalists. The primary concern of traditionalists is “ritual”. Elites tend to hijack community based processes and forcefully occupying the political space opened by decentralization. Besides of the power struggles at the micro level another challenge is on the part of the government leadership at the macro level. Government officials usually have very mixed feelings about community actions. Increasingly though, these officials have come to realize that community action can substitute for the expensive need to put government officials into the field. The paper points out the fact that, community-based natural resource management seems plausible way to cut down public costs of managing resources. However, it remains an arena of power struggle between three actors: Local Communities, Field Agents and Supervisors. This “triangle” of relationships constitute the social arena marking out the actual “locale” of community based natural resource management in Duru – Haitemba.



Community, Tanzania, Natural resources, Empower