Strategies for managing common pool natural resources in Sub-Saharan Africa : a review of past experience and future challenges

28 Aug 2020

This article reviews the literature on the conservation and livelihood impacts of recent policy and institutional reforms concerning the management of common pool natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa. The evidence suggests that the specific institutional and natural resource context is critical to the success or failure of reforms. We also identify several methodological and data deficiencies in the literature that pose significant challenges for the design of effective and sustainable policies in the future. We propose several priorities for future research, including improving the characterization of the nature, extent, and purpose of policies; controlling for confounding effects and selection bias in research design; developing standardized and conceptually sound impact measures that are aligned with the goals of policy reforms; adopting ecosystems approaches that model complex coupled socioecological systems; broadening cost and benefit measures to include the regulation of ecosystem services of significant local, regional, and global value; and identifying long-term economic incentives and benefit-sharing arrangements among stakeholders, particularly given the increasing competition from alternative land use options. Finally, we find that the literature is dominated by contributions from the natural sciences, suggesting an opportunity to increase the role of environmental economics and policy research.