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Community based resource management

The very nature of wetland ecosystems and the patterns of flooding and recession upon which they are dependent require a high degree of cooperation among resource users in their management. Most wetland areas have traditionally been managed as common property resources. In some cases the same resource can be managed in different ways at different times of year. For example, rice fields may become common property for fishing during the peak flood reverting to private lands as the water recede.

Communities throughout the Mekong basin possess a wealth of experience and knowledge in the management wetland resources. A wide variety of local management regimes have been established to manage access and use of wetland resources safeguarding the resources and their benefits.

The full significance of local management practices has not always been recognised in development planning. This has led to inappropriate development initiatives that provide only limited benefits to limited numbers of people and that have put additional pressures on the resources.

Recently these management regimes have faced a number of different kinds of pressures - from outside development, market penetration, privatisation and growing numbers of people using the resources.

In some cases community management regimes have struggled to cope. But equally communities have displayed their willingness and capacity to manage resources, and to do so in a sustainable and equitable manner. And there is more need for them to do so as governments facing budget and personnel constraints struggle to take on all management responsibilities themselves.

Community based resources management is not only about communities taking on the mechanical management responsibilities. It also requires involving communities in all stages of making decisions about the nature and direction of development and conservation.