Conservative Attitude of Forest Dwelling Communities: Hope for JFM to Succeed Evidence from Repeated Field Experiments in Central India

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"Decentralization in natural resource management is becoming a norm in majority of developing countries for ensuring economic efficiency, sustainability of the resource, and socio-economic equity. In the Indian forestry sector, decentralization got ushered in through programs like JFM, and successive legislations since the Forest Policy, 1988. Although several studies have documented suitability of the participatory approach, often questions are raised whether the relationship between forest and forest dwelling communities continues to be symbiotic, or if it has changed under the influence of globalization and commercialization. Based on four repeated field experiments in a community located in central India, this paper indicates that in case of indigenous communities, their relationship with forest continues to be non-exploitative and non- commercial. By increasing complexity in subsequent games, an attempt has been made to create real-life like situation in the context of forest use - open access and with JFM, where individuals in a community harvest forest products – timber, fodder, fuel wood, either independently or after consulting the community. The findings of the paper support participatory management strategy that provides opportunities for communities to make collective decisions through enhanced communication. The paper confirms the argument that decentralization would not only encourage sustainable resource use due to increased sense of ownership, but could potentially lay foundation for equitable distribution too."
decentralization, communication, field work