Natural resource management, paradigm shifts, and the decentralization reform in Mali

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The mainstream view in natural resource management in African drylands has been that local people are responsible for natural resource degradation. Today, alternative views or new paradigms are emerging in several fields. These new paradigms, which support decentralization of natural resource management, are discussed in relation to the ongoing decentralization process in Mali. During the colonial period, heavily centralized governments were installed in all the French colonies. This structure was maintained by Malian governments after independence. However, following the recent transition to democracy, a decentralizing reform is being implemented. It is presently not clear whether these reforms will lead to mere deconcentration, involving the redistribution of administrative responsibilities within the central government, or whether Mali is heading toward real decentralization, devolving decision-making powers to local communities. The gestion de terroir approach, which may be a useful tool in achieving decentralization in farming communities, would, in pastoral areas, cause more damage than benefit.


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Common property resources, Natural resource management, Dryland farming, Decentralization, Paradigm shifts, Centralized governments, Mali, Ecosystem


Human Ecology 25(1): 121-143