Women and CBNRM in Namibia: A case study of the IRDNC community resource monitor project
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This paper is a working paper for The Engendering Eden project, a funded research program by DFID-ESCOR to assess the links between gender and integrated conservation and development projects. The paper introduces CBNRM in Namibia, its work and its objectives. It tells the history of the project reflecting on the role of women and their initial marginalization. Women were not participating. Local conservation groups became managed by men only. In one occasion, someone noticed that palm trees were dying, and men blamed local women for using them for making baskets. During a meeting it was noticed that before the management was turned over to men, women were managing and monitoring that area with no adverse results. Incidents like the above highlighted women's major roles in the use of natural resources while being excluded from decision-making processes. It was decided that women should be employed as community resource monitors (CRMs) giving women access to information and a forum for influencing decision-making. Initially CRMs focused on understanding the women experiences, information, and knowledge gathering. For this reason, local populations were suspicious of their informants' roles. Later it became a way to promote gender balance, to promote women's participation, and to improve women's capabilities within natural resource management and conservancy. The paper presents the history of problems, successes, and constraints, of the project in different sites. The strengths and weaknesses reflect the complexities and sensitive issues involved when dealing with women's projects.