Communication and Natural Resource Management: Experience/Theory

Septiembre 8, 2003


This issue of The Drum Beat focuses on a new resource published by the FAO's Communication for Development Group in the Extension, Education & Communication Service and prepared with The Communication Initiative entitled "Communication & Natural Resource Management: Experience/Theory" - click here for the HTML version. This manual has been designed to serve as a learning tool taking the reader through a series of exercises exploring various theoretical approaches and field experiences in communication applied to different development interventions and Natural Resource Management (NRM) issues. Here we look at some of the experiences described, the theoretical perspectives outlined, and the interactive approach used to explore the relation between practise and theory in the field of communication for natural resource management.

The full manual can be viewed and/or downloaded from FAO:
Click here for the HTML version and the ability to download the PDF version on the FAO site.



This issue of The Drum Beat is also linked to a special Pulse Poll on a related topic:

Is the field of natural resource management communication faced with major theoretical debates and differences over the methods and principles to use in developing and conducting natural resource management initiatives?


If yes, what are the major issues as you see them?




As part of the launch of this resource CI is hosting a Communication & Natural Resource Management discussion forum through which we invite you to share your views on the publication using the reflection questions below. The forum will be held over 10 working days from September 10 - 23, 2003. To join, go to subscription form. Once the forum is over the discussion will be linked to the on-line versions of the publication.



1. Namibia

The CBNRM project in Namibia works with communal area residents on sustainable use of their resources combining reform of policy and legislation with implementation at the community level... Pilot projects identify community issues and test appropriate responses. Local experience is integrated into policy and legislation development. Facilitated meetings work out differences. Sustainable resource management training provides skills. Meetings between communities and tour and resort companies build trust and help negotiate deals. Research is planned and carried out by government with community participation. Government incorporates lessons from pilot projects and community experience into policy.

2. Cambodia

The CBNRM project in Ratanaki Province supports indigenous people living in the highland jungles of Cambodia to earn a sustainable livelihood from, and control the resources in, the forests they have traditionally inhabited. Cambodian researchers work with community members whom they train to map local resources and document local knowledge. The communities use the knowledge and training to lobby provincial and national governments about land use permits and laws protecting indigenous people's rights to possess and use public land and support their traditional livelihood practices.

3. Sri Lanka

The Kothmale Community Radio Internet Project builds on the Kothmale community radio station and programming. The Internet project focuses on assessing the potential benefits of new communication technologies to remote areas. Several themed radio programmes allow listeners to request information from the Internet. These requests are researched by radio station volunteers and the answers are broadcast in local language over the radio. Volunteers are also designing their own web sites and posting information on local culture.

4. Costa Rica and Nicaragua

The ICCADES project synthesises several communication experiences and innovations in Central America to support development in the San Juan River Basin between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It helps local communities design and implement their own strategies for the sustainable development of the basin. In the San Juan River Basin, the project works with local communities, government and media (mostly radio), cross border organisations, and national groups and government.

5. Turkey

Bugday supports the development of a national organic food industry in Turkey. Through education and encouraging local production and consumption of organically grown and processed foods, it seeks to develop an industry to improve the livelihoods of farmers and the health of consumers. It works primarily through education to producers, consumers, traders and processors to provide information on the value of organic foods to health and the environment, and the importance of rural life and tradition.

REFLECTION: Do you think it is possible to develop successful communication strategies for all of these experiences using one theoretical approach?


...African Experiences...African Stories...
Soul Beat Africa - September 10

Join Soul City and The Communication Initiative - share your communication experiences, materials, strategic thinking and events, and engage in discussion and debate about communication for development in Africa.

Beginning September 10, visit the Soul Beat Africa site

Soul Beat Africa



Below are some of the schematic descriptions of theories, models, and change principles meant to give a sense of the core principles behind each approach.

6. Paulo Freire

Freire felt change came from a process where dialogue led to social commitment and constant dialectic between action and reflection. In other words:

a) Dialogue: Lots of communication, discussion and debate, particularly amongst those people most affected leads to

b) Social Commitment: People, individually and through groups in which they are involved, commit themselves to change to improve their livelihoods which in turn leads to

c) Action/Reflection: People review their actions and in light of that assessment plan and undertake new actions leading to a cycle of action and reflection.

7. Steps to Behaviour Change

This model predicts change comes from a process requiring:

a) Knowledge (in the form of information, examples, data, etc) plus

b) Approval (from those around you, of the importance of the issues you wish to address, and the importance of addressing them effectively) plus

c) Intention (to make it happen, genuinely desiring that the change will take place) + Practice (an action has to be taken) plus

d) Advocacy (convincing others about the desirability of their making the same choices and taking the same actions).

For social change to happen all of these need to be present.

8. Theory of Community-Level Structural Models

Environmental forces beyond the control of the individual constrain or help the knowledge-behaviour link. For example:

a) The presence or absence of legal restrictions.

b) Wage scales which define what proportion of people will have the resources for making behaviour changes such as improved nutrition, travel to health clinics for immunization, or keeping children in school.

c) Access to services such as health clinics, schools, and affordable transportation.

Each of these would make it either harder or easier for an individual who learned about a practice to realise it.

9. The Diffusion of Innovation Theory

This theory posits 5 stages through which an individual passes in the adoption of innovations:

a) awareness

b) knowledge and interest

c) decision

d) trial and

e) adoption/rejection.

An idea is transferred from a source to a receiver with the intent to change behaviour. Populations are divided according to their propensity and speed at adopting innovations. Early adopters act as models generating a climate of acceptance and an appetite for change.

10. Theory of Culture

This approach focuses on the communicative nature of culture as a process that is productive of meaning, not just a circulator of information. The receiver is not just a decoder to whom the TV broadcaster transmits a message but also a producer. The emphasis here is on the ways in which people define their own culture. Culture is dynamic - it continues to be redefined as people produce new meanings. People are the producers of change, not receivers and communicators of messages. By implication, people in their social settings drive the change process.

REFLECTION: Do you think theoretical perspectives complement each other? How and in what ways?


Your chance to let funders know the most important media trends and which media programmes should be funded

Complete the brief survey



[From the Foreward]

This manual was written as a tool for people involved or interested in communication and natural resource management who seek a better understanding of how different theories and strategic change principles relate to practise. It is not, however, a book of theory nor is it an argument for one approach over another. Instead, it relates a variety of theories and change principles in simplified schematic form, to a series of actual programmes through interactive experiences.

It asks the reader to become a participant in a process requiring reading and analysing each initiative using different theoretical lenses. Each experience is organized around a theme, a learning objective, a description of an actual natural resource management and communication initiative, and one or two theoretical lenses through which to analyse the initiative. As you work through each experience, you will be asked questions about the theory and change principles and how they relate to the initiative. The idea is to create an interactive space for reflection on what works in your own context and on whether different contexts require different approaches, principles and theoretical frameworks.

The format (in PDF and print versions only) is designed for you to interact with directly. Spaces are there to write in, make margin notes on, and highlight elements that are relevant to you.

REFLECTION: Does the structure and approach of the book facilitate a better understanding of the relationship between theory, practise and relevance to context? Where do you think this book will be most useful: i.e. in the field, in short training programmes, in university courses etc.?


For further information on this publication, please contact Chris Morry or FAO Senior Officer, Communication for Development Group


The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for development activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement or support by The Partners.

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