The role of group heterogeneity in collective action: A look at the intertie between irrigation and forests. Case studies from Chitwan, Nepal
Although considerable agreement exists among scholars about the attributes of a resource and about resource users that are conducive to self-organization, there are also puzzling issues related to the effects of size and heterogeneity of the user group. Prior empirical studies indicate that user-group differences do not have a uniform effect on the likelihood of sustaining collective action. The effects can be either positive, negative, or unrelated to self-organization efforts. Since many of the results are derived from individual case studies, or only a small number of cases, I adopt a more rigorous strategy to address the effect of these variables on self-governance and outcomes. I draw on a relatively large number of cases from two different types of common-pool resources in Nepal—irrigation and forests—to explore associations between group heterogeneity (measured in diverse ways) and collective action to address whether local resource management efforts may be affected. Through the use of in-depth case studies, I further examine the institutions governing both types of resource systems in a setting where members from the same community use both resources. Not only does this provide insights into how resource users organize around two different types of resource systems, but also allows us to assess and compare performance of these self-governed common-pool resource institutions. Using data generated by the Nepal Irrigation Institutions and Systems (NIIS) and International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) research vii programs, and my own fieldwork in the Chitwan District of Nepal, I find that some heterogeneity variables (such as, ethnic composition) are less likely than others to be an impediment to self-organization; the same heterogeneity variable (wealth disparity) may have opposite effects on different resource types; resource conditions are more likely to be affected by ability or inability of resource users to enforce rules rather than by their group differences; and that self-organized groups are able to mediate the perceived costs and benefits of organizing through institutional design.
0703: Organizational behavior
0703: Organization theory