Formation of local community-based natural resource management committees
About the Implementing organization
Name: The Mali Elephant Project
Year of establishment: 2003
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Legally recognized non-profit status, Women’s association or organization, Indigenous group or organization
Participating communities are initially selected based on ecological and socio-economic studies which identified key locations, habitats, resources and sources of conflict across the elephant range. The process continues with facilitating dialogue between neighbouring communities and different clans and ethnicities to arrive at a common perception of effective solutions to reduce conflict over natural resources, improve security and overcome other daily challenges that they face. A CBNRM management committee is then formed of elected community members who formulate local NRM plans and conventions. Teams of young “eco-guardians” are then elected by the community to patrol to ensure the rules are respected. Training is provided for key activities which include the creation of firebreaks to protect pasture from bush fires; the formation of women’s associations for the harvesting and marketing of non-timber forest products; and regulating the use of natural resources in “sustainable use zones” via community monitoring systems.
This approach provides an innovative way to overcome difficulties caused by armed conflict by demonstrating how CBNRM can promote cooperation between neighbouring communities and diverse ethnicities, with participation in collective activities proving to be an effective tool to facilitate post-conflict reconciliation, heal social divisions and improve security in the region.
Forests / Wetlands / Grasslands / Drylands / Wildlife
Type of Action
Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Advocacy for land & water rights
Sustainable Development Element
Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Health / Water security / Peace and security
The empowerment of local communities to sustainably manage natural resources has increased their availability for the mutual benefit of people and elephants. This has maintained space for elephants by preventing unsuitable cultivation or settlement at key locations along the migration route, which also reduces resource degradation and incidents of human-elephant conflict. Of 52 test communities across the 32,000 km2 elephant range (>90 communities engage with the project on an annual basis), 85% have created local rules to regulate resource use; 83% have set aside forests for elephant use; 72% have formed pasture reserves (including a 282 km2 reserve at Kazey-Kazey); and 77% have designated seasonal water sources shared by people, livestock and elephants for sensitive use and management. It is very likely that this unique elephant population would already be extinct without the commitment of the local communities to protect them and the resources on which they depend.
Sustainable Development Impacts
Participating communities have identified and delineated natural resources on which they depend and share with neighbouring communities and the elephants, facilitating local agreement on water and land rights. The formation of CBNRM committees and local rules on resource use have enabled communities to take an active role in promoting more sustainable management practices and limiting over-exploitation by “outsiders” or distant urban interests (e.g. charcoal traders or “prestige” livestock herds). This has increased the availability of natural resources, improving food and water security, at the same time as promoting post-conflict reconciliation and social cohesion. This approach has been advocated by local communities, the national government and project partners (e.g. MINUSMA) as an effective tool for restoring peace and security to the Gourma.
The approach started in key areas across the elephant range which were identified from ecological and socio-economic studies. When tangible benefits (e.g. increased resource availability > improved livestock condition > increased revenue) were demonstrated at these test sites, neighbouring communities asked to participate, rapidly increasing the level of engagement. Communities participating in collective natural resource management are now drawn from across the elephant range from an area of >40,000 km2 (larger than Switzerland) in central Mali, an important region from strategic and conservation perspectives. Although this model is directly linked to the conservation of elephants which are only found in the Gourma region of Mali, similar approaches to CBNRM could easily be implemented in other regions.
The approach has been replicated across the elephant range as tangible benefits have been demonstrated to neighbouring communities who then emulate these successful CBNRM initiatives to achieve similar results. It is hoped that this approach will facilitate the restoration of peace and security to the Gourma region, and could potentially be replicated in northern Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel region where conflict over natural resources is widespread. This approach could also demonstrate how CBNRM and conservation initiatives can overcome problems created by armed conflict at the same time as reducing habitat degradation and biodiversity loss. The initiatives are facilitated by a local field team with a sound understanding of local development, conservation and socio-political issues, providing high value for money and ease of replication in countries where resources are limited and implementation by external partners is difficult.
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