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Natural resources management is a complex process in the context of Bangladesh because of the presence of a wide range of environmental and social factors. These make the job of managing natural resources hard for the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) alone. To protect the ecosystem and help the government in managing natural resources effectively, USAID has been supporting the development of co-management as a mechanism for the last 20 years. The concept is that the Government and local communities engage in collaborative efforts to manage and protect forests and wetlands in Bangladesh. The co-management mechanism accrued significant development gains in terms of safeguarding resources and benefiting local communities. However, a rigorous assessment of the co-management mechanism identified two constraints to developing effective sustainable natural resources management. These were the weak operational, technical and financial resources of community-based co-management organizations (CMOs) and lack of a Government-approved legal framework and management plans that define CMO’s rights, role and responsibilities. This systemic learning from implementation experiences prompted USAID Bangladesh to address these constraints by an activity called Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CREL), which has adopted a CLA approach in design and implementation. CREL focuses on policy reform, management planning and capacity-building of CMOs to manage natural resources effectively.
The CLA approach allowed CMOs to take ownership of the changes promoted by the project. They evolved from beneficiaries to partners in development, taking responsibility for the outcomes. Tools for assessments need to be simple and used regularly and are currently used by the CMOs.