The people-centred approach in southern Africa can be regarded as an initiative aimed at creating collective community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) without the ‘tragedies’ referred to in common property literature. The approaches adopted in different southern African countries differ in focus as a result of the legal frameworks governing the collective management of
natural resources in the countries in question (Rihoy 1995). The respective emphases range from disbursement of economic benefits and the development of local-level resource management mechanisms, to ecological concerns and social and cultural issues. Lessons and experiences recorded in common property literature call for the clear demarcation of boundaries and definitions of those individuals and households with the right to access collectively managed natural resources (Murphree & Hulme 1999; Ostrom 1990). The CBNRM legal frameworks in the various countries are essentially responses to this call.
This paper focuses on responses to definitions of individuals and households, also referred to as members, with rights. It attempts to disentangle the respective roles of the legal frameworks and the various customary and non-customary factors at play in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, in the determination of membership of individuals from access to and benefits from collectively managed forest and wildlife resources. The information used in this paper is based on a review of legal documents, including policies and legislation relating to natural resources in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
A key concern of this paper is that of ‘natural resource tenure’, the policy and legal instruments in place, which determine social and institutional relationships regarding access to and management of natural resources. Murombedzi (1990) argues that if they are to be meaningful, rights to natural resources should be exclusive and enforceable. Firstly, the holder of such rights over resources should be in a position to exclude others from accessing and benefiting from the resources in question. Secondly, the holder should have the ability to enforce such exclusion in the long term (Murphree 1996). Thirdly, according to Murphree, the rights should be based on as few conditions as possible. In other words, the extent of limitations attached to rights is in inverse proportion to their strength. This means that the fewer the limitations, the stronger they are likely to be, and vice
versa. The authority vested in individuals is what makes it possible for the holders of rights to decide how to manage the natural resources, and whom to exclude. The right of exclusion is primarily enacted through the operational rules of access, which are collectively decided and determine the criteria which individuals must satisfy in order to have access to forest and wildlife