Learning by Doing: Catalysing CBNRM for the benefit of wildlife and people

Photo Credit: Sue Ras


Working with those who live close to rhinos has been identified as an essential, yet often underestimated, component of rhino conservation. Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) is a proven conservation approach which allows people and nature to reach shared goals. Historically throughout Africa, people and animals have been in competition for land and resources. Yet wildlife may offer the most profitable land use with great economic development potential when managed sustainably and when effective governance structures are in place.  Over the last twenty years, WWF in Namibia and partners have shown this to great effect through the successful “Living in a Finite Environment” (LIFE) project.  LIFE develops systems which enable people to manage wildlife within community conservancies and income to be equitably shared.

It is against this backdrop that WWF South Africa and partners launched RISE, the Rural Initiative for a Sustainable Environment. Funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, RISE is based at the new CBNRM Unit at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) located next to Kruger National Park. The critical skills required to undertake and train others in this work are scarce in South Africa and RISE creates new CBNRM leaders through a “Learning by Doing” approach.

The Aim of the Project

RISE enables rural communities to benefit from protected areas by developing the necessary management, governance and financial skills.  At carefully selected project sites, the RISE team identifies which benefits are available, advises on sustainable management of wildlife and creates committees and legal structures to allow income to be received by everyone.  The intent is that over time, communities realise long-term sustainable benefits and become custodians of wildlife.