2. The preparatory phase ... cntd

2.7 Launching and maintaining social communication initiatives

Social communication initiatives generate an on-going flow of information and dialogue between the Start-up Team and the institutional actors, and among the institutional actors themselves. They can be organised by the Start-up Team beginning with some specific event (a fair, a public party, a community meeting, a travelling theatre piece, etc.), but they should also include an on-going component, to take care of communication needs that emerge in the course of time. In the CM preparatory phase, social communication promotes an open debate and critical understanding of questions such as: "What is co-management? Is it needed here? If so, how do we develop it?"

No one in the world would be interested in co-management if it could not bring solutions to the environment and development problems besetting many people and groups in society. Thus, social communication initiatives can begin by promoting social discussion on existing environment and development problems, existing capacities to do something about them, existing entitlements to take decisions on the issues. Information should also be made available on who has initiated the CM initiative (a project, a community leader, a governmental agency), and why; on the Start-up Team and what it is doing to set the process in motion; and on what steps the process is likely to comprise and how people can participate.

Example Box 2
The "visiting card" of a Start-up Team

The project for the conservation of natural forests in the Southwest of Cameroon (PROFORNAT) is operated by the GTZ in a region inhabited by peoples of Bantu and Baka ("pygmy") origins comprising three protected areas (Lobéké, Mboumba-Bek and Nki), several forest concessions, game hunting territories, etc. The management of the forest ecosystem is characterised by a multiplicity of stakeholders with diverging interests, referring themselves to a plurality of norms regulating access to natural resources.

In this context, the PROFORNAT project opted for a position of facilitator of the co-management process. A Start-up Team revolving around the project staff with experience in the socio-economic field was created. The Team first dedicated itself to gathering information on the ecological and human environment, but also to introducing the project to the different stakeholders, and in particular to explaining its own potential role as process facilitator. To this end, a "visiting card" in various formats corresponding to the various stakeholders was prepared to diffuse information on the co-management process and on what it entails.

The visiting card for the local communities was created following the GRAAP method (GRAAP means Groupe de Recherche et d'Appui pour l'Autopromotion des Populations – group to Reseaarch and Support People's Self-promotion). The main tool of the method is a large canvas of paper of about 2.5 meters width, with a series of drawings in a specific sequence. The images are drawn to help the people reflect on their environment, discuss on the relevant trends together, identify possible solutions, identify the need for a facilitated co-management process among various stakeholders, and accept that the GTZ project may play the facilitator role. The discussion also touches on the process objectives, expected results, human resources, etc.

Four animators settled on various locations along the main road crossing the project territory were set in charge of organising village meetings, showing the synthesis table and discussing it in the local languages. These meetings have allowed a better local comprehension of what the PROFORNAT project is about, in particular, to distinguish it from other local actors such as the agents of the Forests administration, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Conservation Service (WCS). Several local communities expressed their willingness to get involved in the co-management process.

One objective of social communication initiatives could be to inform the public at large about the relevance of CM concepts and practices for the local context. Even more importantly, however, they may help people to own and transform whatever CM is all about. In other words, social communication initiatives are very different from conventional information or education initiatives. They do not merely aim at "passing on a message about an issue" but at promoting its critical understanding and appropriation in society. After all, the most important result sought by a genuine co-management initiative is not for people to "behave" in tune with what some experts believe it is right for them, but for people to think, find agreements and act together on their own accord.

A Start-up Team interested in developing social communication initiatives would begin by understanding the system of local media, including where and how local people discuss and take care of NRM issues. Whenever possible, the local media employed to convey this kind of information— from word of mouth to songs and story-telling, from informal meetings at market places to elders' ceremonial gatherings— should be identified and possibly utilised (often within a spectrum of other media). The Start-up Team might have to abandon some favourite conventional tools (e.g., pamphlets or microphone speeches) for more creative and effective ones (e.g., an environment-awareness game or lottery on local market days). Importantly, a mix of different media should be used, tailored to reaching and stimulating different groups and sectors in society. The Team should, most of all, avoid adopting a "teaching" or "preaching" attitude and instead always promote dialogue and the open discussion of different points of view (see also Section 1.2).

Although dialogue and discussions will end up establishing an "accepted common language", an important first step in social communication initiatives is to decide on an entry-point description (words, images, definition of problems, etc.) of the ecological and social issues to be tackled and the co-management process being promoted. For the latter, a culturally meaningful name or phrase in the local language, which would be perceived as appealing and inspiring (e.g., "Let's manage the forest together!", "Our community in the 21st Century", "Solidarity and wise use of our wetlands" etc.) should be tested and adopted. The terms and phrases should not be trite or resemble party slogans; on the contrary, they should convey the spirit of non-partisan collaboration, solidarity, working together for the common good. The local name of the CM process is usually crucial to local acceptance and success. It is important to avoid picking a "good name" from a few devised on the spur of the moment by outside professionals. Instead, the name should evolve in conversations with members of local communities and various potential institutional actors. Possible problems and inadequacies with the translation of the names and descriptions in the local languages should also be given careful consideration.

2.8 Engaging the institutional actors

The main task of the Start-up Team is to contact the potential institutional actors identified so far and to inform them about the upcoming process of co-management and the opportunities it offers to all parties concerned regarding the NRM unit(s) at stake. A member of the Team (usually the closest and best trusted by the relevant people) meets with individuals belonging to a community, an agency or a group identified as a "potential institutional actor" and asks to be accompanied to visit the NRM unit(s) at stake. Once there, issues and problems naturally come up and can be discussed. Participatory appraisal exercises such as land-use mapping, historical mapping, transect walks, interviews with spontaneous groups or focus groups and key informants, etc. can be very useful in prompting discussion. The next step is to organise meetings with more people who broadly share the same interests and concerns as the ones initially contacted (i.e., part of the same "institutional actor" camp). In such larger meetings the NRM issues and problems identified are re-introduced and discussed, and thereby validated or modified.

The goal of these meetings is for the potential institutional actors to identify and clarify their own NRM interests, concerns and capacities, as well as to decide for themselves if and on what grounds they wish to claim any entitlement to manage. In addition, they may also clarify what type of entitlement they claim. Do they wish to take an advisory, executive or decision-making role? Do they simply wish to have a share in the benefits deriving from the natural resources? In this way, the Start-up Team deepens and refines its own preliminary situation and stakeholder analyses with the help of the stakeholders, while they prepare themselves for the phase of negotiation.

Example Box 3
Social communication at the heart of co-management

The Conkouati Game Reserve is situated in the coastal region of Congo Brazzaville and characterised by a diversity of ecosystems (savannah, forest, lake, lagoon, etc). In the early 1990s the Congolese government agreed to develop some management measures for the reserve with the help of a GEF project implemented by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In view of the multiplicity of existing stakeholders, norms, interests and open conflicts, the participatory approach presented the only, if scant, hope for success. It proved an approach more easily said than done. At the beginning, all attempts at dialogue promoted by expatriate personnel were met by disdain and open hostility. It was only when a local person employed in the public administration took at heart the objectives of the project that a real dialogue began to develop. All the villages in the area were visited and repeated discussions and debates took place over a period of many months. At the same time, meetings were held with all the other stakeholders, such as government officials and forest concessionaires. These proved not less difficult to engage in a positive dialogue than the local communities. Yet, the efforts eventually succeeded and the various stakeholders agreed to form a joint management committee (the COGEREN) and developed their co-management plans, including zoning.

Information on the agreements on the basic elements of the management system (especially the zoning plan) and the setting up of a pluralist management authority (the COGEREN) was extensively diffused in the territory of the reserve. All this was part of the social communication initiatives initiated well ahead of the ceremony to ritualise the common vision and legitimise the agreements. The initiatives made use of a variety of communication avenues, chosen in order to suit the various partners, places, availability of finances, etc.

Two main phases marked the diffusion process of the management agreements. The first corresponds to the preparatory phase of the ceremony to ritualise the common vision and legitimise the management agreements. The main objective was to announce the awaited ceremony to all stakeholders. The means used were borrowed from both the local and modern systems of communication. The members of the local Committee for the Management of Natural Resources (COGEREN), all delegated by stakeholders, had the responsibility of informing the respective groups they represented. Among the tools used in the occasion, the audio cassette occupied an important place. It comprised two songs on the process of co-management which were sang at the rhythm of modern musical instruments in the vernacular language (Lingala) and in French by an artist well known in the region. Each member of the COGEREN used the communication channel they mastered. In the villages, the local heralds were often asked to assist. The songs of the cassette became popular in bars and main piers along the borders of the Conkouati lagoon (meeting place for fishermen, hunters, business men, etc). In town, particularly at Pointe-Noire, the songs were diffused several times on the national radio and the local Radio Pointe-Noire.

The second phase was that of feed-back from the key events of the ceremony of legitimisation and of the ritual which went with it. The support that was used here included photos taken during the signing of the charter and the ritual dance, a video cassette that recorded the whole ceremony, a video cassette on the synthesis of the ceremony, a poster on the charter signed and the zoning map, etc. The posters were distributed in all villages, including the neighbouring villages not directly concerned with the signing of the agreements. Projections of the video cassette on the whole ceremony were organised in all the villages, to make sure that everyone, even the ones absent from the ceremony, were informed about it and aware of its meaning. The film on the synthesis was also shown by the regional television of Point-Noire.

Social communication on the management agreements obtained at Conkouati was realised through a variety of avenues and on the basis of a full understanding and utilisation of the local media environment. Information was shared and discussed among all stakeholders with the help of communication channels appropriate to each of them. Because of these initiatives, the local stakeholders decided to engage in the process and are now well informed on all the implication of the reached agreements and on the existence of the COGEREN, the multi-party institution responsible for monitoring the fairness of the process and the respect of agreements.

It is particularly important to examine the grounds on which various actors base their claims to natural resource management, which we described before as the "roots of entitlements". These offer an overview of the main NRM stakes in the specific context, and inform the Start-up Team of controversies likely to surface during the negotiation phase.

2.9 Helping the institutional actors to organise

To participate in the negotiation process, the institutional actors need to arrive at an internal consensus on the values, interests and concerns they wish to bring forward. They also need to appoint people to represent them vis-à-vis other actors. For some (e.g., an established government agency) this may require little effort. For others (e.g., a traditional community living in a remote area) it may require major investments, at least in terms of time, and it may even necessitate external facilitation and support.

'What type of assistance should the Start-up Team provide to the institutional actors?' Assistance is at times necessary for certain individuals or groups to participate in the negotiations. Some types of assistance are usually not problematic (e.g. financing the participation at meetings or facilitating the choice of a representative) while others (e.g. supporting the establishement and legal recognition of an organisation) possibly imply more continuous and onerous financial commitments. They may also take on a clear political connotation.

For instance, a member of the Start-up Team may help a community or user group to select the most appropriate person(s) to represent them. He/she may facilitate a meeting in which the main qualities and characteristics of a good representative are elicited, listed, discussed and agreed upon through brainstorming. On the basis of such a list of criteria (including, for instance, factors such as knowledge of the local NRM situation, personal commitment, honesty, negotiation skills, capacity to represent the interests of the community, etc.) the group can list, discuss and prioritise the names of people who fit the criteria and can effectively represent the group as a whole. In this way, a group can free itself from having to choose the "expected names" (such as the person who usually deals with government officials, the son of the village chief, etc.). It is important that the criteria are genuinely identified by the community or interest group, and not by the Start-up Team, and that the decision on the name of the representative is taken in a congenial atmosphere, free from coercion. On the basis of specific needs and available resources, the Start-up Team may thus provide stimulus as well as technical and/or financial support to the self-organising of the institutional actors. Once this step is completed, they will indeed be ahead in the CM process.

2.10 Preparing for the negotiation meetings: rules, procedures and equity considerations

This task is another of the Start-up Team's most important duties. On the basis of the preliminary decisions on the institutional actors and the level of agreement to be reached, the Team proposes how the negotiation should be held — an advice charged with cultural and political implications.

Example Box 4
Strengthening social actors before the negotiation process: the case of the Baka People

The Dja Game Reserve is situated in the dense humid forest zone of Cameroon. It is part of the world network of Biosphere Reserves and has been declared a World Heritage Site. The management of this reserve affects and concerns several stakeholders: the Bantu and Baka residents, the timber exploiting companies, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the local administration, and others.

The Baka are pygmies. They are a hunter and gatherer society characterised by nomadic customs. Under the influence of the government settlement policy, some Baka communities have been compelled to settle down in villages located in proximity of Bantu villages. This unprecedented co-existence has perturbed the organisation of the Baka society and modified their relations with the Bantu. In fact, the settled Baka found themselves obliged to abide by the norms regulating the social relations of the Bantu. Thus, the Baka were deprived of their traditional rights to land and natural resources: the Bantu recognised for them only the right of mere subsistence. In fact, they have a prejudicial image of the Baka. For the Bantu, the Baka are an inferior People.

It is in such a context that the project Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biodiversity of the Dja Reserve, financed by The Netherlands ands implemented by the IUCN, decided to promote a co-management process. For that, it seemed necessary to make sure that the capacity of the Baka to sit at the negotiation table would be adequate, and that the Bantu would recognize them as a social actor with valid resource entitlements. For this, activities were designed to address both the local Bantu and Baka communities. Regarding the Baka, the project facilitated the recognition of the Baka chiefdom by the government administration, the rightful remuneration for Baka work by the Bantu employers, the government's attribution of community forests to the Baka, the self-reliance of the Baka women in the acquisition of their cooking salt, etc.

At the beginning, the support of the project was geared towards the internal sharing of information and discussion among the Baka themselves about their entitlements and what they recognise to be the entitlements of the Bantu. As a second step, the opportunities for discussion were provided also between the Baka and Bantu communities. It became evident that the two groups were interdependent for a number of reasons, including the practice of barter, which makes the two ethnic groups complementary with respect to several needs, and the custom of blood pacts, which binds some Baka clans and Bantu families.

The project stood on the ground of this interdependence— well recognised by the two groups— to promote a dialogue on issues hitherto considered taboo and to bring the Bantu to accept to lose certain prerogatives by ensuring just remuneration to the Baka and by recognising their chieftaincy and their rights to have access to community forests. In this way the project succeeded in bringing both the Baka and Bantu to agree on the daily wages for the Baka who work in the fields of the Bantu. This agreement has been legitimised in a ceremony in 1988, during which the Baka and Bantu delegates embraced each other— a remarkable feat in the local context!

Unfortunately, the severe scaling down of the operation of the Dja Project in 1999 has nearly interrupted the efforts towards the co-management process in the area. 

Traditional societies have arrays of convivial procedures for negotiating agreements, such as a meeting of community elders or a larger gathering on the occasion of a spiritual festivity or a market fair. Many of those are simple, effective and inexpensive. If the Start-up Team is truly in tune with the stakeholders, it will consult them and eventually agree on whether any such culturally specific event is suitable for deciding on the issues at stake. In some cases, however, convivial gatherings may not be sufficient for negotiating a fair and sustainable NRM agreement.

For instance, the institutional actors may not share the same cultural backgrounds, values, attitudes and habits. A handshake equivalent to a sacred pact for some may just be a pleasant discussion of possibilities for someone else. Some people may not speak the same language, both literally and metaphorically, in the sense that the meaning of their respective terms and concepts may need a careful "translation". There may also be large power gaps or unsettled conflicts among the stakeholders, so that people may not feel comfortable, or even safe, to volunteer their views and expose their interests and concerns.

In such cases, the Start-up Team may well take a pro-active role in proposing a schedule of meetings, some rules and procedures for participation, and some support in facilitating negotiations (see also Section 3.1). The institutional actors could well discuss and modify all of these, but it is important that an entity trusted by all parties take the initiative to plan in detail at least the first meeting among the institutional actors. In other words, the Start-up Team should obtain an agreement on the place, date, hour, working language (or languages), participants, agenda, logistics and facilities needed for the meeting that will launch the CM process. But the Team needs to remember that its tasks are not only of a practical nature. Indeed the Start-up Team is also the prime guarantor of fairness and equity in the whole process. Thus, it is never too early to stat thinking about equity, and on how it can be fostered throughout the entire CM process. The results arrived at should be made explicit, discussed and incorporated into the rules and procedures of the negotiation phase.

"What does 'equity' mean in a co-management process?" Specific answers depend on specific contexts. In general, equity can be sought by helping the less privileged to "develop their own entitlements". It can be sought by promoting the recognition of entitlements rooted in valid and legitimate grounds (as defined by the relevant society) rather than entitlements rooted in the exercise of one form of power or another. It can also be sought by promoting a fair negotiation of functions, benefits and responsibilities among the entitled actors.

Results of the preparatory phase

The preparatory phase generally has some or all of the following outputs:

  • information and tools (e.g., maps) on the main ecological and social issues at stake in the identified NRM unit(s), collected for the use of the parties in the negotiations
  • a short report on the NRM context listing, for example, historical, social, cultural, legal, political and institutional issues
  • one or more proposed NRM units, identified on the basis of ecological and social considerations
  • a preliminary analysis of relevant institutional actors, including entitlements, claims, power differentials and NRM conflicts amongst them, both existing and potential
  • a "name" and a description of the co-management process that are culturally valid and broadly understood and accepted in the context at stake
  • social communication initiatives that opened up and maintain two-way communication channels between the Start-up Team and the institutional actors, and foster a broad discussion of NRM issues in society
  • institutional actors who are reasonably well-informed, organised (e.g. having identified their own representatives) and ready to negotiate co-management plans and agreements
  • a set of suggested procedures for the negotiation process, including a first meeting among the institutional actors organised in detail
  • ideas and concrete proposals on ways to promote fairness and equity in the negotiation process

Promoting equity in co-management: some examples and ideas

  • disseminating information on environmental values, opportunities and risks of relevance to potential institutional actors
  • disseminating information on various natural resource management options
  • ensuring freedom to express views and organise for action
  • giving a fair hearing to every actor's grounds for entitlements, with no discrimination in favour of some with respect to others (discrimination may be based on ethnicity, gender, age, caste, class, economic power, religion, residence, and so forth)
  • helping the institutional actors to participate in the negotiation process, for instance by supporting them to organise, to develop a fair system of representation and to travel to meetings
  • organising discussion platforms where all the institutional actors can voice their ideas and concerns, selecting the least discriminatory places, times, languages, formats, etc.
  • supporting the negotiation of a fair share of management functions, rights, benefits and responsibilities
  • ensuring effective and unbiased facilitation during negotiations
  • supporting (via training and allocation of resources) the skills and capability of actors to negotiate
  • promoting a tight proportionality between the management entitlements and responsibilities and the benefits and costs assigned to each institutional actor
  • keeping an open door for new institutional actors who may arrive on the scene
  • supporting participatory democracy and multi-party agreements and organisations in all sorts of social decisions
  • ensuring a fair measure of democratic experimentalism, allowing the adjustment of NRM plans, agreements, organisations and rules on the basis of learning by doing
  • ensuring that the negotiated co-management plans, agreements and rules are enforced effectively

  • Including equity considerations in the process towards empowered and responsible institutional actors: a schematic view

    Example Box 5
    Beyond customs: women engaged in co-management

    The zone at the periphery of Waza National Park, in Northern Cameroon, comprises sixteen villages inhabited by three main ethnic groups – the Fulani (Peuls), the Bornois and the Kotoko—devoted to agriculture, cattle raising and fishing. Side by side the sedentary population one finds also transhumant and nomadic peoples, used to take their animals to graze in the periphery of the park. In this complex social context the temptation was strong to exclude from the co-management process the groups less socially powerful and recognised. This was the case for the transhumant and nomadic people, on the one hand, and for the women, on the other. Women, in particular, despite representing more than half of the concerned population, were customarily not at all involved in decision making.

    The Waza Logone project, operated by the IUCN and financed by the Dutch Cooperation Agency, integrated the gender approach and some equity considerations in its operations. In this light, it has favoured the involvement of both women and transhumant and nomadic groups in management decisions.

    The task has been difficult because of the place traditionally reserved for women in the society of Northern Cameroon. The local administration, the traditional Chiefs and the men in general could not see any interest or reason to involve the women in the co-management process. They did not hesitate to express their disapproval in public. On their part, the women were not keen to take part in decision-making and were sceptical about being able to negotiate with the game guards, who had always repressed their desire to gather natural resources from the park.

    Facing this situation, the project Waza Logone started some special activities for the women, to raise their interest in the co-management process. The accent was placed on income-generation activities in relation with the existence of the park, re-enforcing women's capacity to negotiate and encouraging their participation in the management structures. It soon became apparent that women could become enthusiastic participants in the process as soon as they would perceive their chance of affecting the matter of gathering of resources from the park without being repressed by the Conservation Service. In fact, women ended up actively participating in the negotiation of the management plan and the creation of a pluralist management structure – the Advisory/ Management Committee for the Park of Waza and its Periphery.

    Some of the interesting results obtained include the direct representation of women in the above Committee – 7 women are among the 15 representatives of the population in the Committee, identified by all the local population – and the negotiation of specific agreements between women's groups and the Committee itself. These negotiations allowed a first agreement on the management of a restaurant at the Visitors Centre in Waza, which has been assigned to a group of local women. The women agreed to respect the park rules and to denounce all individuals who enter the park in an illegal manner or perform illegal activities there. In addition, the women of several villages at the border of the park are negotiating the right to harvest certain quantities of natural resources from the park's territory, such as gum Arabic, dead wood, wild gombo and doum leaves. As of Spring 2000, the process is on-going: the opinion of the Scientific Committee advising the Park is expected but not yet delivered. On the basis of this opinion the various stakeholders will develop specific agreements with the women of the relevant communities.

    Comments and feedback on this page, or this publication, are welcomed. These should be may be sent by e-mail to the authors at: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

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