Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) remains a popular policy with many international funding institutions, in spite of growing evidence of its disappointing outcomes. It is underpinned by theoretically justified benefits which serve to reproduce and market it. The paper explores approaches to understand and rectify these failures. The conclusion is that explanatory effort should be expanded from the "facilitating characteristics" of potentially successful CBNRM sites to include two sets of interfaces -- those between donors and recipient states, and between the state (especially the local state) and CBNRMs at the local level. Illustrative examples in Botswana and Malawi are given throughout the discussion.