When FAO raised the idea of preparing a resource book in collaboration with The Communication Initiative for people involved in communication and natural resource management, it was clear that finding an approach that reflected the diversity of thought, practice and local context would be a challenge. We hope that this document meets that challenge by presenting experiences across cultural and theoretical perspectives in such a way as to enable the reader to reflect on some of the shared principles and lessons learned in this field.
For many years, under the definition of Communication for Development, FAO has emphasized the critical role that participatory communication plays in involving communities in rural development. Such a commitment to genuine participation requires openness to the different ways of understanding and resolving problems that emerge from the cultural, economic and agroecological realities of the communities involved. During the past three decades the Communication for Development Group in the Sustainable Department of FAO has integrated in several field projects the use of different communication approaches and media, and more recently new information and communication technologies (ICTs), for community based rural development. These experiences have shown that participatory communication processes can transform the ability of rural stakeholders to fully manage local natural resources and to enable community control over their environment.
The Communication Initiative has worked to increase the profile of communication as a central element of successful development practise and to enable communication practitioners to use peer review and real time information exchange to improve their work. Through its `location' as a crossroads for a range of information about, evaluations on, and reviews of, communication projects, The Communication Initiative has facilitated discussions across theoretical approaches, gathered information on grassroots initiatives from varied cultural and geographic settings and brought together practitioners from very different backgrounds.
The two groups share an understanding of the centrality of communication for rural development and social change, and a commitment to enhance rural people's capacities in managing communication processes. FAO is interested in exploring this in the realm of natural resource management and rural development in order to strengthen the work of communication practitioners. The Communication Initiative looks for ways to profile and share the varied communication approaches and methods being used successfully in the field. Both institutions want to facilitate a process of mutual learning among different stakeholders interested in sharing experiences about communication for natural resource management.
The result of this effort is a unique and not easily categorized resource book - Communication and Natural Resource Management: experience/theory. It is not a work of theory and yet examines theoretical perspectives. It is not an account of best practises and yet provides examples of interesting and useful initiatives. It is not a training manual and yet presents exercises and learning objectives. It looks at how experience is, and can be guided by theory and how theory can be derived from understanding experience. It challenges us to reflect on our own and others' work by treating theoretical approaches as interchangeable tools within a variety of different communication and natural resource management initiatives. It encourages the readers to learn from each other.
We hope you enjoy reading this book and find it a useful tool when thinking about communication for natural resource management and rural development from perspectives that shed new light on old problems.