Devolution and democratisation: policy processes and community-based natural resource management in Southern Africa
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By presenting case studies from the village of Mahenye in Zimbabwe and the five villages of the Okavango Community Trust in Botswana, the study looks beyond the objectives, discourse and contests of policy and undertakes an investigation of what actions rural people are undertaking inside the institutions established by policy makers, and of governance outcomes at the local level. These case studies reveal that unfettered devolution can lead to elite capture and the perpetuation of poverty; that rural communities themselves have agency and the ability to exercise it; and that there is limited and shrinking political space in both countries which is reducing opportunities for rural communities to engage with political processes. The Botswana case studies demonstrates that an imported and imposed devolutionary initiative which lacks links to higher levels of governance can reduce political space at local levels. The Zimbabwe case study demonstrates that political space may be more effectively created through decentralisation. The lesson drawn from these case studies is that institutional arrangements and roles should be determined by context specific issues and circumstances and move beyond the structural determinism that has characterized much of the CBNRM debate to date. The study concludes with policy recommendations. These include the need for recognition of the synergy between CBNRM and democratisation as mutually reinforcing processes and the need to be context-specific.