Co-Management: An Evolving Natural Resource Management Approach
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Co-Management: An Evolving Natural Resource Management Approach

This article describes co-management, its nature, types, and scope as a natural resource management approach. It also differentiates co-management from community-based management.

Natural resource management is a continually evolving field owing to the complex nature of environmental concerns and issues. Among the recent approaches to natural resource management is co-management, where the responsibility of managing resources rests on those who have a stake on its sustainability. The different sectors involved and are affected by changes in the state of natural resources are referred to as the stakeholders, as each one contributes to the integrity or destruction of the natural resources by which they are considered as the primary resource users. They have a stake on what will be the future of the natural resources under their care.

Co-Management Defined

Co-management is defined as a partnership arrangement in which government agencies, the community of local users, non-governmental organizations or NGOs and other stakeholders share the responsibility and authority in natural resource management. It is essentially seen as a process of resource management, adjusting and maturing to changing conditions over time. A central element of co-management is that a group of people with common interests converge together to come up with mechanisms for effective and equitable management of conflict among the different stakeholders and where there is community-level control and management of natural resources. Co-management also inculcates local accountability in managing the natural resources. Co-management empowers the stakeholders in order to attain natural resource productivity and sustainability as well as equitable sharing of the benefits that could be derived from such natural resources.

Co-Management as the Bibingka Approach

Co-management is viewed as the middle course between self-governance by communities and national government control. Sometimes, co-management is also called the “bibingka approach”, a local term referring to the way a local snack food “bibingka” is cooked. Bibingka is a rice cake made from glutinous rice soaked then ground in water to form dough. The dough is baked in a special clay pot, lined with a piece of banana leaf, with live coals on top and underneath. Co-management works this way because it combines both authoritative government control also referred to as the “top-down approach” with community initiatives referred to as the “bottom-up approach.” In reality, there is no one model of co-management because power sharing among stakeholders could vary.

Types of Co-Management

There are various types of co-management. Co-management types vary according to the partnership arrangements, degrees of power sharing, integration of centralized government natural management systems, among others. The following are the different types of co-management:

1. Instructive. The initiative to manage natural resources comes mainly from the government. There is minimal information exchange between the government and the different stakeholders.

2. Consultative. The government allows people participation in say coming up with projects for community but mainly by consulting them.

3. Cooperative. The different stakeholders including the government work together as co-equal partners in natural resource management.

4. Advisory. The community of users only provides advice to the government on how to manage their resources.

5. Informative. It is here that the government delegates authority to the natural resource users.

Differences between Co-Management and CBRM

Co-management may be confused with community-based resource management or CBRM. In reality, there may be an overlap between the two approaches to natural resource management. They differ primarily on the following arrangements:

1. Level of participation of government and when the government becomes involved in natural resource management. The level of participation of the government in community-based resource management is minimal. The community is empowered with greater authority over the use of natural resources. Community-based resource management practitioners view the government in an external role which is brought at a later stage. In co-management, the government and the natural resource users are involved early and equally in natural resource management.

2. Focus of management. Community-based resource management is people-centered whereas co-management is partnership-centered.

3. Scope. Co-management is broader in scope and scale than community-based management. Co-management can encompass different regions; not just limited to a particular community just like community-based resource management.

4. Extent of the Role of government. The government has a major and active role in co-management. In community-based resource management, government involvement is minor.

5. Policy support. In co-management, the government provides the supporting policies unlike in community-based management where supporting government policies may be absent. This becomes a problem to communities especially if greater government support in enforcement, financial and technical assistance is required for effective natural resource management (see previous post on the problems of small scale mining management).

6. Power to coordinate and implement initiatives. The government in co-management fosters participation and dialogue among the different stakeholders. The government also legitimizes community rights, initiatives and intervention, and enforcement. This is beyond the community’s scope.

There are a multitude of tasks to deal with at the different stages of natural resource management. Besides, environmental problems and concerns vary across localities. Hence, the responsibility and authority of the government and the members of the community as direct users of natural resources can also vary. Natural resource management is both a science and an art.


Borrini-Feyerabend, G., Farvar, M. T., Nguinguiri, J. C. and V. A. Ndangang, V. A. (2000). Co-management of Natural Resources: Organising, Negotiating and Learning-by-Doing. GTZ and IUCN, Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg (Germany), 2000.

Colby, Michael E. 1989. The evolution of paradigms of environmental management in development. Strategic Planning Division, Strategic Planning and Review Department, The World Bank. 34 pp.

©Patrick Regoniel 9 August 2010

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Comments (1)

These are good to know. Re tweeted this onw Patrick.