Villagers, bureaucrats, and forests in Nepal: Designing governance for a complex resource
This study addresses the question of how institutions, together with various physical and socioeconomic attributes, affect the performance of forest resource systems in 18 locations in the middle hills of Nepal. Specifically, it investigates the impact of local institutions on forest resource management to gain a better understanding of how such institutions shape the actions of individuals at the community level. Drawing upon recent research in the analysis of cooperation, the study focuses upon the relationship between the institutional design of the governance of forest resources and (1) population change; (2) differences among users or heterogeneity; and (3) patterns of association seen as forms of social capital.
The findings from this study indicate that (1) change in forest conditions is not markedly associated with population growth but, rather, is strongly associated with local forms of collective action; (2) differences among users do pose challenges for groups of forest users in overcoming the incentives to free ride and shirk but not in a determinant fashion; and (3) levels of deliberate, long-term interaction do have a systematic relationship with levels of collective activity.
Successful groups cope with perceived changes in resource condition and user population and overcome stressful heterogeneities by crafting innovative institutional arrangements well-matched to their local circumstances. In the more successful cases, arrangements for identifying genuine users, determining harvest amounts and timing, and active monitoring by users themselves emerge as important factors in managing forest resources.
This study suggests that development policy aimed at preserving the environment with local participation must recognize the significance of institutional arrangements at the local level to forest resource conditions at that level. Ultimately, the benefits and costs associated with forest resource conditions at the local level have considerable bearing on larger environmental issues. Furthermore, the study suggests that government policy on participatory resource management will be more successful if it facilitates institutional innovation and adaptation at the local community level.
0617: Public administration