Natural Resource Management is faced worldwide with an accelerating transformation. In Africa, advances in science and technology, shifting consumption patterns, continuing population growth, trade globalization, frictions in subsidy regimes, and the impacts of local and global environmental change are leading to new and serious risks to sustainable management of water systems, land, forests, rangelands and other natural resources. The complex and dynamic context of natural resource use in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, necessitates integrated and community based approaches which must be part of the training of future researchers, policy makers, academicians and natural resource scientists.
In our times, environmental and natural resource problems have increasingly come to the fore globally and the science of sustainable natural resource management as well as prudent policy making are vital for development of countries that are largely natural resource-based. Whether in discerning development options for national and regional level targets, the list of NRM issues has expanded beyond traditional concerns of biophysical processes in air, land and water to new frontiers of integrated natural resource management and mainstreaming of global climate change. Today?s concerns have begun to clash with the traditional extraction-oriented management regimes; hence; the need for highly skilled professionals that facilitate use of our natural resources and environment in more innovative ways. The paradigm of resource management that guided our approach to these matters throughout the twentieth century is clearly unsuitable for addressing environmental problems that have become global in nature. Consequently, the treatment of natural resource issues from a cross-disciplinary and comparative perspective is integral to finding acceptable solutions for the fundamental and often contentious environmental and natural resource management problems that bedevil Africa?s development.
Africans? livelihoods are closely linked to their access to and responsible utilization of natural resources. Majority of the region?s population live in the rural areas and are among the most vulnerable and insecure in terms of poverty, health, food security, economic losses, and conflicts resulting from competitive access to natural resources, among other factors. Integrated and community based approaches are pivotal to scientifically addressing the emerging challenges to natural resources management including increased frequency of resource-use conflicts and extreme climatic events. A crisp presentation of factual basis to influence community action and policy decisions is needed. Scientists and professionals have a role to play in this effort while graduate training through relevant natural resource management research and critical thinking is both paramount and very urgent.
With this in mind, the intent and organization of this resource book on Managing Africa?s Natural Resources for Development is to provide an understanding of the various levels at which natural resource management issues occur and are being addressed scientifically, socially and politically. A central focus of the book, therefore, is its discussion of how Natural Resources Management (NRM) occurs through sound scientific basis, cases of good practices, and a series of student centered learning activities. In this way, the book provides a regional and integrated versus a solely state-centered and sectoral perspective. In addition, the authors have provided a detailed list of relevant reading material and companion web sources so that readers can remain appraised of current events and issues in natural resource management in Africa.
The production of the book has been made possible by the critical assistance of the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) while the process has been facilitated by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), Africa Office. The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has been a close partner in the book writing processes and most of the authors in the various chapters are from RUFORUM member Universities). With the support of IDRC, IIRR coordinated a multi-stakeholder process to piece together concepts, theories, principles and cases from the region on natural resource management. The varied perspectives of the scientists and experienced authors were captured through a facilitated and participatory writeshop process. The writeshop was conducted as an open, transparent, representative and legitimate process.
The book is the outcome of a series of face-to-face and virtual collaborative writing and in-depth discussions including peer review and joint editing. It presents the state-of-the-art perspectives in natural resource management of local relevance and also includes information regarding NRM in a holistic context. The book systematically navigates the tricky landscape of integrated natural resource management with special reference to Eastern and Southern Africa especially in the backdrop of prevailing challenges of global and local environmental changes. The wide experience of the authors and the rich references made to emerging challenges and opportunities, the presentation of different tools, principles, approaches, case studies and the results and syntheses of process discussions, add value to the book?s noble intent.
Managing Africa?s Natural Resources for Development aims at presenting a holistic and advanced content on NRM consistent with demand for integrated approaches to resource custodianship and scientific rigor. The resource book and the process of its production has paid special attention to the current situation, issues and potential opportunities to redirect the current NRM system to realize adaptive research and policy support. It addresses, in a holistic manner, issues critical to integrating community participation, project management, gender, climate change adaptation and policy formulation. The theories, principles, conceptual frameworks and case studies presented in the book have been carefully chosen and contextualized to guide the reader through the art and science of NRM.
I believe that the book?s presentations and treatment of NRM will be of interest to postgraduate students, policymakers, development practitioners, donors, academics and civil society, and will enrich our understanding of the various dimensions of natural resource management sustainability in our reading. I wish all readers a fruitful application of the concepts, principles, theories, frameworks and NRM science that have been ably presented by this ensemble of Africa?s scientists.
Professor Fanuel Tagwira
Africa University, Zimbabwe.