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					Forests in Flux: The Socio-political Challenges to Mutli-scale Governance of Forest

                                     Prakash Kashwan

Studies on success at regeneration of forests and ‘forest transition’ have attributed the
transition to macro-changes in agriculture and economy. Yet, regions and communities
working within the same set of macro-economic and macro-institutional context have
shown varying levels of successes at achieving forest conservation. At the same time, the
theory of common pool resources has explained these variations in terms of local
collective action. Recent scholarship on developing a diagnostic theory of complex socio-
ecological systems points to the importance of linkages across micro-, and macro-
contextual variables. There remains a considerable scope for developing theories and
framework that account for linkages across micro and macro levels and accounting for the
dynamic processes that occur at meso scales. This paper tests the hypothesis that the
linkages between actors and institutions located at multiple scales are an important factor
in influence the extent to which local groups identify with the agenda of collective
resource management, even under adverse institutional contexts. Such institutional
contexts, characterized by the dominance of national or provincial bureaucracies, and a
general lack of incentives for local users to cooperate, are particularly common in human
dominated socio-ecological systems in developing countries.

The analyses presented here rely on my year-long dissertation research in western India.
Through a carefully constructed research design I conducted 90 community level surveys
and, numerous interviews with bureaucrats, elected officials, party cadres, and members
of non-governmental organization (NGOs) on the theme of diverging and at times
conflicting interests in forest resources. This unique data set was supplemented by
participant observation at events such as review meetings, rallies, and election campaigns
where various actors came together in real life situations. The statistical findings suggest
that micro and meso level institutions of forest conservation and electoral democracy, and
markets jointly influence prospects for local forest governance. More importantly, the
research contributes new insights on cross-scale and inter-temporal effects of pre-existing
institutions on the prospects for community governance of local resources. Meso-level
institutions of electoral democracy are factored in the models by accounting for
constituency level electoral competition. Ethnographic evidence supplements and
elaborates on these findings of cross-level and inter-temporal linkages, underlining the
complexity of incentive structures perceived by key actors identifying with a number of
different institutions and authorities at different levels.

In conclusion, I offer some insights for further development of a methodology that
adequately accounts for the complexity of socio-political linkages across different levels
and how such linkages might affect governance of resources that are of concern to actors
at local as well as global arena.

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