Skip to main content

Natural Resource Management


The majority of population in sub-Saharan Africa remain rural-based and reliant on natural resources. Users draw upon the various resources (land, forests, fish, grass, water, wildlife) for composite economic, social and cultural benefits. If managed holistically and accessed equitably, these commons can remain highly productive and sustainable across generations, and could greatly contribute towards attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. Increasing attempts to manage commons holistically in recent years are as a result of the realisation and appreciation of the interrelatedness and interconnectedness of the ecological and socio-economic dynamics of natural resources. Conflict resolution is integral to these holistic approaches since ecological degradation leads to competition for dwindling resources. In reality, commons in sub-Saharan Africa are under increasing pressure due to their economic value for the dependent communities due to growing populations, rural unemployment and lack of alternative economic opportunities. In most instances, management is uncoordinated. Overexploitation and degradation occur particularly where ecosystem-wide institutional arrangements do not exist to overcome problems of subtractability that arise from open access constellations. Droughts and recent cyclones are reminders of the impacts of climate change on vulnerable natural resource dependent communities.

PLAAS Research on Natural Resource Management

Our research on natural resource management relates to sustainable and equitable utilization of land, fisheries, water, forests and non-renewable resources (e.g. minerals) based on fundamentals, principles and concepts of ecosystems approach, rights-based systems, sustainable livelihoods, food and nutrition security, political ecology, political economy, climate change and the governance approach. The underlying question is how to ensure equitable and sustainable utilization across generations.

Featured Publications

May 10, 2019 in NRM Publication

Andrea Nightingale (2019) Environment and Sustainability in a Globalizing World

From the Foundations in Global Studies series, this student-friendly text follows a two-pronged approach to help readers understand the globalizing processes relating to environment and sustainability, which are examined in a range of disciplines, including environmental studies, geography, global studies, political science, international affairs, comparative politics, and other disciplines. First, it presents foundational material that gives students the conceptual underpinnings…
Read More
May 10, 2019 in NRM Publication

Ngochera et al (2018): Defragmenting resource management on the southeast arm of Lake Malawi: Case of fisheries

The southeast arm of Lake Malawi catchment has a wide range of natural resources that require prudent management for sustainability and maximisation of benefits. The current management practice is government sector based, with individual Departments and Ministries using their own policies, legislations and management approaches, yet dealing with the same composite resource and user communities. This has resulted in fragmentation…
Read More
April 26, 2019 in NRM Publication

Progressing Community-based Natural Resource Management in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is ushering in a new era of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). It is moving away from place-based wildlife management initiatives to more internationally linked forestry carbon projects which focus on the sequestration of carbon through conservation of forests and the subsequent trading of carbon credits. Learning lessons from the varied and complex history of Zimbabwe’s main CBNRM project…
Read More

Current Projects

Moenieba Isaacs


Prof Mafa Hara

Read More
moenieba isaacs

Prof Moenieba Isaacs

Read More