Integrated approaches to natural resource management abound, but what does integration mean in practice, what are the benefits and constraints to integration and how can integration be achieved? Characteristics of integrated approaches include linkages to broad strategies; involvement of stakeholders; bringing multiple sectors together; and taking a basin or ecosystem as the management unit. Analysis of early experience in the development and implementation of a new approach to lake management in Uganda – integrated lake management (ILM) – identifies how the approach is integrated through policies, structures and plans. Integration within policies includes the development of more coordinated and coherent natural resource sector policy through the development of a sector wide approach. Integrating lake management priorities into broader poverty reduction policies and development planning guidelines is also essential for effective implementation and to secure resource allocation in developing countries. Integration within lake management structures and planning processes ensures they are inclusive, participatory and inter-sectoral, responding to the development needs of lake-dependent communities, as well as to the management of natural resources. Integrated approaches reflect the complexity and diversity of interests and livelihoods and provide an exciting opportunity for more coordinated and effective policies and programmes within and between sectors.