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The Effect of Institutions on Guatemalan Forests: Conceptual, Methodological and Practical Implications

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Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Author: Marquez Barrientos, Lilian I.
Date: 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/9935
Sector: Forestry
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): tragedy of the commons
social-ecological systems
community forestry
Abstract: "Challenging socially accepted notions of rural communities inability to overcome the 'Tragedy of the Commons' and amidst international concern for the fate of Earths remaining forests, resource dependent rural communities (usually poor, barely educated, and neglected) have shown how capable they can be in managing forest resources. Yet resource governance is a complex balance between sustainability and degradation where communities can fail or succeed. Institutional arrangements lie at the core of the explanation of why some succeed and others fail. This dissertation analyzes the institutional arrangements of three Guatemalan community forestry experiences in the tropical dry forests of Chiquimula. Their stories are different, showing both failure and success in managing conflict, involving fruitful and disastrous alliances, and resulting in thriving or declining forests. They offer concrete evidence of how institutional arrangements are created and how they evolve, reflecting on the challenges policy makers, practitioners and researchers face when supporting communities in their governance efforts. Using IFRIs (International Forestry Resources and Institutions Research Program) interdisciplinary approach, institutional and forest ecology analysis constructs a socio-ecological picture of community forestry to assess forest protection and use. The forest showing stronger protection status belongs to the community with stronger resource governance institutions, offering additional evidence that when communities are allowed and supported they can be effective resource users and conservationists. On the other hand, failed community efforts offer a reflection on what may go wrong and how international donors and state agents supporting local resource governance may do more harm than good if they do not fully understand the complexity of the whole endeavor and the role local institutional arrangements play. A methodological analysis on the challenges of interdisciplinary research is also presented."

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