Defining community capacity to manage natural resources
A partnership between CSIRO and the New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water analysed rural livelihoods to assess and enhance the adaptive capacity of communities for managing natural resources.
30 April 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011
The project team worked with Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) in New South Wales (NSW) to help develop ways of identifying, building and reporting the capacity of natural resource managers to adapt to future challenges.
The team worked with resource managers from different regions and community groups to compare current levels with desired future levels of adaptive capacity, using a rural livelihoods approach.
State-wide targets have been set to enhance the condition of biodiversity, land and water resources and the capacity of the community to manage them.
A discussion of gaps that emerge between current and desired levels helped to prioritise collective action by the community and governments to build the capacity to better manage natural resources.
The information gathered was used to produce catchment report cards that fulfil the state-wide reporting responsibilities of CMAs.
Assessing adaptive capacity is only useful if it supports action to build it.
The team from NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) and CSIRO worked with CMAs to run workshops that enabled groups of natural resource managers to self-assess their adaptive capacity, and develop practical strategies to build it. The groups of natural resource managers have been selected with CMA priorities in mind, and linked up with existing reference groups where possible.
For each CMA, the workshop process was designed to work with or through existing reference groups and networks of resource managers.
Each workshop was run with reference groups representing a particular type of natural resource manager across the catchment and:
- identified natural resource management (NRM) focus (managers and region)
- explored rural livelihoods analysis
- identified local attributes of capacity
- assessed differences in the adaptive capacity of regions within the catchment
- prioritised strategies for building capacity.
From the workshop process, a report card for each CMA was created and opportunities provided for wider community input.
NSW Government developed a series of 13 state-wide targets to enhance the condition of our biodiversity, land and water resources, and our capacity as a community to manage these resources. CMAs are working towards these targets through their Catchment Action Plans (CAPs). One of these state-wide community targets is defined as:
'There is an increase in the capacity of natural resource managers to contribute to regionally relevant natural resource management (Target 13).'
Understanding our collective capacity to manage natural resources is important for prioritising government and community investments and activities to build this capacity. Together, we’re looking for practical opportunities to enhance our capacity to manage natural resources.
This is a collaborative project supporting CMAs between CSIRO and the NSW DECCW, building on collaborative research between CSIRO, ABARE and the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (Primary Industries and Fisheries).
Please contact either Dr Peter Brown from CSIRO or Dr Brent Jacobs from the NSW DECCW for more information.
Brown PR, Nelson R, Jacobs B, Kokic P, Tracey J, Ahmed M and DeVoil P. 2010. Enabling natural resource managers to self-assess their adaptive capacity. Agricultural Systems. 103: 562-568. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2010.06.004 [external link]
Nelson R, Kokic P, Elliston L and King J. 2005. Structural adjustment: a vulnerability index for Australian broadacre agriculture. Australian Commodities. 12(1): 171-179.
Ellis F. 2000. Rural Development and Diversity in Developing Countries. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.