Questions concerning the role and performance of ldc governments have accumulated rapidly over the last decade, arising from domestic fiscal crises, internationally sponsored economic reform programmes and both internal and external pressures towards good government. In parallel, the environmental threats posed by rapidly-growing demand for food mean that new, more effective ways of allocating and managing resources and the inputs which enable users to harness their full productive potential must be found. Decentralisation, bringing government closer to people, is one much-proffered solution to both sets of problems. This paper examines the arguments for and against decentralisation in the context of natural resource management. It demonstrates that the merits of decentralisation and the challenges which may be posed to it vary from one resource to another and even for different activities relating to the same resource. It also makes it clear that decentralisation alone is unlikely to solve the problems of natural resource management. Nonetheless decentralisation can certainly make a contribution as the structural component of a broader package of reform aimed at increasing demand-pull from and accountability to rural people.