Ecosystem services and wild resources are worth more than global GDP. Unlike capital and human resources, humankind has only evolved crude institutions for wild resources. These are failing to conserve natural environments, or to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor that coexist with nature. Managing wild resources often requires collective action. Thus, the global narrative now accepts the rights and abilities of local people to manage wild resources, but practice has been disappointing. The center has regularly devolved too little power or benefit. When it has done so, emerging local institutions are characterized by elite capture, low levels of participation and inequitable benefit sharing.
Southern African pioneered new approaches to the governance of wild resources, initially on private land and through community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) programmes. This project, at the interface of global scholarship and oral knowledge within the southern African community-of-practice, aims to improve our understanding of the economics and governance of wild resources, and focuses on the neglected field of micro-governance. New institutions can increase the output of drylands ten-fold, and share it more equitably, so this project has direct application to the lives of millions of people living in Africa’s savannas, and to forest and fisheries conservation in Africa, Asia and Latin America.