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Public Policy Reforms and Indigenous Forest Governance: The Case of the Yuracaré People in Bolivia

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Type: Journal Article
Author: León, Rosario; Uberhuaga, Patricia; Benavides, Jean Paul; Andersson, Krister P.
Journal: Conservation and Society
Volume: 10
Page(s): 195-207
Date: 2012
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8088
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): governance and politics
indigenous institutions
property rights
public policy
Abstract: "The recent surge in the efforts to reform forest governance-both through decentralisation and tenure reforms-has been coupled by an increase in empirical studies that assess the virtues and limitations of the new regimes. Despite an increasing body of literature, however, there is still limited knowledge about the effects of these reforms on the indigenous groups and their forest governance institutions. This study seeks to contribute to the empirical literature by analysing how policy reforms in Bolivia have affected one indigenous territory, its inhabitants, their de facto property rights regime, and their consequent efforts to govern their forest resources. The case study, about forest use decisions and actions among the Yuracaré people in the Bolivian lowlands, is an example of what the Amerindian indigenous societies face in terms of both opportunities and limitations associated with the implementation of formalised de jure rights over forests. We pay particular attention to the effects of the 1996 forestry reforms on the institutional conditions for governing common-pool forests resources. The study draws on primary field data that were collected both before and after the implementation of the reforms. We find that the introduction of formal rights has led to increased security in tenure rights and the emergence of more opportunities for diversifying the sources of income for the Yuracaré people. But there are also significant costs associated with the achievement of these benefits. The reforms induced the Yuracaré people to integrate with the surrounding public and private economies, but we find that these interactions have strained traditional governance arrangements."

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