|People's Participation In Natural Resources Management - Workshop Report 8 (IRMA, 1992)|
|7. Towards a participatory management strategy|
While discussing the obstacles to people's participation in NRM and the conditions congenial to people's participation, the participants identified the following roles for NGOs:
1. Creating and Enhancing Awareness of the Local People: The participants were of the view that in many cases, local people over-exploit and misuse natural resources simply because they are not aware of how the resource(s) should be used, what is the maximum sustainable yield of the (renewable) resource, what are the consequences of over- exploitation, what are the new technologies for efficient development, harvesting/appropriating, processing and utilisation of resources that are available and so on. Most NGOs, because of their better and closer contact with local people and greater credibility among them than that of government organisations, could do a good job of educating people, and creating and enhancing their awareness about the critical role that natural resources play in their lives. Thus, NGOs could enlist local people's participation in NRM through education and conscientisation more cost-effectively and on a sustainable basis. Once the local people are aware and convinced about the need for restoration, conservation and proper utilisation of natural resources, they will co-operate with other agencies in their programmes. MYRADA, AKRSP(I), VIKSAT, CHETNA and many other NGOs have played this role very successfully. An important lesson from the experience of these NGOs that emerged during the course of the Workshop was that 'enlisting local people's participa-tion' should be included in the list of objectives of all NRM programmes and the extent of people's participation or some other index of people's participation such as PPI should be used as a criterion for evaluation of the performance of managers of such programmes.
2. Organising and Empowering Local People: The participants realised that unless local people are formally organised into some form of co-operative societies or associations, their participation in NRM programmes cannot be sustained over time. The consensus of the participants was that the job of organising local people can be best done by NGOs. Government departments and organisations are neither mandated nor oriented to secure people's participation. People's parti-cipation involves sharing of power and information and this is what the government organisations do not want to do. So, the participants recommended that in all the programmes of NRM management, the jobs of organising and educating the people should be assigned to NGOs of good standing, if existing locally, and adequate funds made available to them for these purposes.
3. Field Trials, Demonstrations, and Training: The participants were of the view that NGOs are eminently suitable for conducting field trials and demonstrations of new technologies with the co-operation and participation of the local people and for training them in their use. Government organisations do not provide the needed flexibility nor the resources to their functionaries for conducting such trials and demonstrations. The experience of the PIDOW project of MYRADA in Gulbarga district of Karnataka narrated by Suresh R and of AKRSP(I)'s watershed development project stated by Singh showed that NGOs can successfully try cost-effective methods of soil and water conservation with people's participation and train the farmers in the use of those methods and techniques. In both the projects, all the soil and water conservation structures were designed by extension volunteers (EV) selected from amongst the farmers and constructed by the participating farmers themselves under the guidance of the professional staff of the NGO concerned. The EVs were trained by the professional staff of the NGOs and the EVs in turn trained the participating farmers.
4. Project Implementation on Selective Basis: The participants discussed at length the strengths and weaknesses of NGOs in implementing NRM programmes. They arrived at a consensus that many NGOs now have the requisite technical and managerial expertise to implement such programmes and that because of their close touch with people and people-centred flexible approach, they can do a better job of project implementation with people's participation than government organisations. But the participants realised that there are very few NGOs who are well-equipped for doing a good job of project implementation on a large scale. Wherever and whenever NGOs are willing and adequately equipped, the job of implementing the resource management projects should be assigned to them and the related government departments/ organisations should help the NGOs with technical information and funds. Suitability of the NGOs for the purpose may be assessed by a State-level Committee consisting of represen-tatives of the concerned state department(s), NGOs (other than whose case is under consideration), and eminent scientists and academics engaged in NRM research and training in the state. The participants also emphasised the need for documentation of cases of both success and failure in NRM and distilling of lessons from them.