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Natural Resource Governance around the World

Sharing Power: Co-management as a polyvalent tool

Increasing tenure security and managing conflicts with co-management agreements

Documents of reference

Borrini-Feyerabend Grazia, Pimbert Michel, Farvar M.Taghi, Kothari Ashish, Renard Yves et al, Sharing Power - Learning by Doing in Comanagement of Natural Resources throughout the World, IIED, IUCN, CMWG, CEESP, 2004

In an ideal situation, agreements for sharing power over land and natural resources among multiple relevant social actors are the fruit of political processes aiming for greater social justice and ecological sustainability. The negotiations leading up to such co-management agreements can be the forum for addressing other, related affairs. For instance, indigenous and local institutions may (re)gain legitimacy and influence by securing entitlements over ancestral lands such as the following case of a National Park in Columbia.

Box 4.4. Securing land tenure and rights through a co-management agreement: the Alto Fragua–Indiwasi National Park (Colombia) (adapted from Oviedo, 2003 and Zuluaga et al., 2003)

The Alto Fragua-Indiwasi National Park was created in February 2002, after negotiations involving the Colombian government, the Association of Indigenous Ingano Councils and the Amazon Conservation Team, an environmental NGO focusing on projects to assist the Ingano and other indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin. The Park is located on the piedmont of the Colombian Amazon on the headwaters of the Fragua River. Inventories conducted by Colombia‘s von Humboldt Institute determined that the site is part of a region harbouring the highest biodiversity in the country and is also one of the top hotspots of the world. The protection of the site will assure the conservation of various tropical Andean ecosystems, including the highly endangered humid sub-Andean forests, some endemic species such as the spectacled bear ( Tremarctos ornatus) and sacred sites of unique cultural value.

Under the terms of the decree that created the Park, the Ingano peoples are the key actors in charge of its design and management. The area— whose name means House of the Sun in the Ingano language—is a sacred place for the indigenous communities. This is one of the reasons why traditional authorities have insisted that the area‘s management should be entrusted to them. Although several protected areas of Colombia share management responsibilities with indigenous and local communities, this is the first one where the indigenous people is fully in charge. This has been possible thanks to Colombia‘s legislation that recognises traditional authorities ( Asociaciones de cabildos) as legal subjects with faculty to develop their own development plans, including environmental management provisions.

The creation of the Park has been a long dream of the Ingano communities of the Amazon Piedmont, for whom it naturally fits their Plan of Life ( Plan de Vida), i.e., a broad, long-term vision for the entirety of their territory and the region. The creation of Alto Fragua-Indiwasi National Park, with the Ingano as principal actors in the design and management of the site, represents an important historic precedent for all the indigenous peoples of Colombia and elsewhere, and an example to follow.

The negotiations preceding co-management may also be the occasion to air certain tensions among those involved in natural resource management. In the relatively recent history of many countries, access to and decision-making power over land and natural resources have excluded many social actors. The excluded people may feel that they have been deprived of their rights and unjustly treated. They may also have been attempting, overtly or covertly, to gain access to natural resources and their benefits regardless of the “law”.This situation can lead to serious conflicts. The collaborative, participatory approaches used in co-management arrangements can create safe spaces where grievances might be expressed and peaceful solutions might be achieved. The following South African example demonstrates how co-management can be a tool for conflict management.

Box 4.3. Balancing the powers in Makuleke land (South Africa): a co-management framework solves conflicts over land ownership and use(adapted from Steenkamp, 2002)

In 1969, the Makuleke community of the Limpopo province was forcibly removed from a tract of land in the northeastern-most corner of South Africa. Their land was incorporated into the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the community relocated some 70 km towards the south. Close to thirty years later, ownership of the land was returned to them by way of a co-management agreement with the South African National Parks (SANP). This settlement was negotiated under the auspices of the land reform programme launched by South Africa’s first post-apartheid government.

Land ownership gave the Makuleke substantial bargaining might and the settlement fundamentally changed the balance of power between the two parties. The agreement made it possible for the Makuleke to pro-actively pursue their interests in the land relative to those of the SANP and the state. It also created a secure framework for the longer-term conservation of the Makuleke Region’s exceptional biodiversity.

A lack of conflict around management issues is often indicative of the prevalence of an oppressive relationship. In this instance, the open conflicts that emerged as part of the redressing of rights after the fall of the apartheid regime were successfully settled as part of the co-management process. The implementation of the agreement did not immediately “solve” the controversies, but all tensions were ultimately dealt with within the framework of the agreement. With the resource base secured, the ultimate success of the “Makuleke model” will depend on the Makuleke leadership‘s ability to ensure the rational and equitable distribution of the benefits of conservation to all sections of their community.