New and more complex partnerships are emerging to address the sustainability of natural resource use in developing countries. These partnerships variously link donors, governments, community-based organizations, NGOs, business, certification agencies and other intermediaries. High expectations and many resources have been invested in these initiatives. Yet, we still do not know whether more complexity, including more sophisticated organizational structures and inclusive processes, has delivered better sustainability outcomes, and if so, in what sectors and under which circumstances. In particular, we need a greater understanding of: the role played by facilitators in forging these initiatives; how partnerships obtain and manage legitimacy in different arenas; and how these factors may result in different outcomes. To fill this knowledge gap and build capacity in this area, NEPSUS assembles a multidisciplinary team to analyze partnerships with different degrees of complexity through structured comparisons in three key natural resource sectors in Tanzania: wildlife, coastal resources and forestry. These sectors have established traditions for co-management and partnerships, but have also experienced recent innovations, and constitute important elements of rural livelihood strategies. Tanzania provides an ideal case for researching the impact of new partnerships on sustainability outcomes because policy and program implementation in these three sectors are heavily dependent on their success.
Sustainability partnerships can be very important in view of balancing communities’ needs to access natural resources and the long-term availability of these resources for future generations and to ensure proper conservation. Even though newer generations of sustainability initiatives are attempting on paper to balance this act, in practice on the ground conservation efforts and community-blaming overshadow the livelihood needs oflocal people, and the set of incentives they react to. As a result, in partnerships where thereare clear and tangible benefits for local communities arising from sustainability efforts (e.g.FSC certified timber), interventions are more successful. In places where the communitiesbear the costs (limited access to a previously accessible resource) without clear benefits,conservation offers are seen with suspicion, and environmental impacts remain limited.