Holistic management in West Africa: A new approach to community-based natural resource management decision making and institutional development at the decentralized commune level
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SANREM CRSP, University of Georgia
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SANREM West Africa’s (SANREM WA) collaborative research support program seeks to improve natural resource and conflict management practices in agro-pastoral systems in West Africa’s arid and
semiarid regions. Our project does this by supporting decision makers at multiple scales with appropriate data, tools and methods to analyze information. We also provide support through capacity building activities.
The focus of our work is on the newly decentralized decision making unit in Mali – the commune. Communes, which have recently been empowered by decentralization legislation, now manage natural
resources at the local level in Mali. A commune is comprised of a number of somewhat arbitrarily aggregated villages, is the lowest administrative unit, and is similar in nature to the lowest units recently created or empowered in most other countries of the subregion.
To support decision making at the commune level, SANREM WA is building a decision support unit and is providing tools and sciencebased information to facilitate natural resource management-related
decisions. The decision support unit or Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee (NRMAC) is a project-created body composed of representatives from each of the villages of the Commune of
Madiama (the target commune), women’s groups, pastoral organizations, and village-based resource user groups. The NRMAC serves as the consultative and participatory bridge between the project and the populations of the commune. Although it does not have official standing within the commune, the NRMAC has unofficial ties and support from the governing Rural Council. Our hope is that our work with the NRMAC will lead to the development of a prototype decision support unit that will serve as a model for other countries of the subregion as they seek to confront similar natural resource management issues and problems.