Natural resource conflicts and community organizations in Bangladesh


With a population density of over 1,000 persons per km2, pressure on common property wetlands and forests in Bangladesh is intense. Community based co-management has been introduced in wetlands and fisheries since the early 1990s and in a forest protected areas since the mid-2000s. This analysis assesses community based organization (CBO) performance including conflict management over three years among about 150 floodplain CBOs and reviews experience in the five forest protected areas with co-management.

The Department of Fisheries and local communities have collaborated for devolved fisheries responsibilities. The incentives for collective action among fishers to restore habitat and conserve fish are more secure access and the benefit of higher fish catches. Local conflicts with elites and fishers over access are rare where CBOs are well established compared with waterbodies lacking community management. Networking among CBOs has strengthened cooperation and collective ability to resist threats and resolve conflicts. Adaptive learning between CBOs has diversified natural resource management based on common ground between fishers and farmers, and encouraged CBOs to be more inclusive.

There is a fundamental lack of trust between local people and the Forest Department arising from a history of authoritarian management and conflicts over illegal logging. Co-management has been taken up on a limited scale in forest protected areas, but community patrol groups have few incentives to protect forests. The lack of overlapping institutions and formalized CBOs comprised of poor forest users limits scope to resolve conflicts particularly when there are highly organized and influential forest exploiters.

The findings indicate that devolution of management to local communities can improve conflict management, as well as natural resource productivity, livelihoods, and social standing. But this process takes time, depends on government commitment, and the potential for positive outcomes differs between types of commons.


Parvin Sultana; Thompson, P. Natural resource conflicts and community organizations in Bangladesh. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C., USA (2013) 34 pp. [CAPRi Working Paper No. 111]

Natural resource conflicts and community organizations in Bangladesh

Published 1 January 2013