|Sustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)|
|Part 1: Economy and society: development issues|
|Environmental management and social equity|
This paper has painted a picture of the extent to which environmental management as we know it contains extensive elements of social inequity. It has also shown that efforts at managing the environment can be classified broadly into two approaches: formal orthodox environmental management and indigenous popular environmental management. Both approaches contain strengths and weaknesses in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Although the orthodox approach might contain a greater element of built-in technical efficiency, it lacks strong elements of social equity. It often tends to be inappropriate, can be irrelevant, and of course at times is less effective. The popular strategies are themselves limited when they confront largescale problems, although they cope more effectively with communitybased micro-scale issues, and they have been found to work quite well in many contexts in Africa. This has been well stated by Paul Richards (1985).
The question here is, how do we integrate both and build on their strengths? The answer is readily available in trends and practices in development thinking and work and can be found in the participatory approach to development. The point is that environmental management must become participatory environmental management.
This of course means that it must begin with the people; it must be based on their needs in terms of both their perceptions and their definition of their needs. Managers and researchers must therefore change their strategies and orientation and learn to work with and for ordinary people in fulfilling their needs in the order of priority that they place on them. Every element of environmental management must incorporate the knowledge, values, and energies of the endusers - the communities. More significantly, groups that are at the moment considered irrelevant and are marginalized, such as pastoralists, peasants, women, children, and youth, must become the central subjects of policies and actions whenever these affect their lives and locations.
There is of course the need for a review and reform of institutional operations, their structure, functions, and responsibility. Policies and legislation require quick, effective, and self-sustaining review mechanisms. An important element is effective decentralization to local authorities or those closest to the points where action will be felt. The institutions responsible for producing formal environmental managers also require a reorientation of their training programmes and their professional ideologies. This means new approaches, methods, and curricula. It also means retraining and training of practitioners in the field.
Above all, environmental managers need to adopt and internalize the values, principles, and practice of effective participatory management. This, if genuinely done, would help to guarantee the protection of popular economic and social rights and would lead to a more human-centred strategy of environmental management. That way the most important and universal features of social equity are guaranteed.