While the concept of sustainable development gains increasing traction under international law, effective and scalable policies to translate these principles into practice remain largely beyond reach. This article analyses one possible strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa - increasing security of communal tenure to improve resource management and achieve rural sustainable development. Although this approach has attracted some attention, particularly with management responsibility of communal property increasingly devolved to the community-level, the expected results in terms of more sustainable resource exploitation and sounder environmental management have yet to be realised. Through critical analysis, with particular emphasis on the Gestion Terroir approach in Burkina Faso , the article explores the reasons behind the limited success. The article suggests that greater emphasis must be placed on bridging statutory command-and-control regimes with community-based models. Focusing on the links between communal land tenure and environmental management, and effectively embedding community land management institutions within existing environmental governance structures offers a practical model to promote sustainable development.
Communal rights, customary law, environmental degradation, environmental management, management of the commons, natural resource management, sub-Saharan Africa.