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Scaling Up from the Top Down and the Bottom Up: The Impacts and Governance of Inter-Community Forest Associations in Durango, Mexico

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Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Author: Garcia-Lopez, Gustavo A.
Date: 2012
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/9889
Sector: Forestry
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): community forestry
Abstract: "Mexico’s community forestry experiment has become famous as a global model for sustainable forest use and socioeconomic development. However, many Mexican forest communities are facing significant challenges such as weak organization and limited access to markets. Scholars and practitioners have argued that connections across different levels of governance between local communities, inter-community networks, and other governmental and non-governmental stakeholders may help deal with these situations. Yet there are still gaps in our understanding of why these cross-scale arrangements form, their internal governance, their benefits, and the factors that make them successful. This dissertation addresses these gaps by analyzing the economic, political and forest impacts that inter-community forest associations (FAs) –a type of cross-scale governance arrangement– have on forest communities; and the factors that influence FAs’ effectiveness. Drawing on collective action and political economy theories applied to common-pool resources, I engaged in a year-long comparative case study of four FAs in the Mexican state of Durango –two organized by communities themselves (bottom-up) and two created by non-community actors (top-down). The results show that FAs often form from in response to community needs, but also as adaptation strategies and responses to national policies and the political-economic context. Throughout their histories, FAs have played a crucial role in helping communities solve regional problems such as improving road infrastructure, preventing and combating forest fires, and improving market access and political representation. The results also underscore FAs’ capture by peasant leaders and foresters using the organizations for profit and for escalating into higher political positions. Finally, I show that leadership, financial autonomy, social capital and enforcement of institutions are crucial for the success of these associations."

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