Ghosts in the Transmission: The Translation of Global Conservation Concepts to Local Scenarios: A Case Study of Ecodevelopment in Central India

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"This paper addresses the processes by which ecodevelopment concepts are transmitted from planning to implementation and the ghosts or factors that intervene in this process, focussing on the India Ecodevelopment Project (IEP) in Pench Tiger Reserve, Central India. The paper draws on interviews with village beneficiaries and agents of the implementing agency, the State Forest Department (SFD), and on documents from and discussions with planning agencies, especially the World Bank. "Ecodevelopment is a type of Integrated Conservation and Development Project (ICDP) that focuses on development for conservation via agreements between the Forest Department and villagers that assert the link between development benefits and reciprocal conservation actions, which is often weak in other ICDPs. The IEP stresses participatory microplanning as an important means to the Project goals of reducing the pressure of people on parks and of parks on local people. However, in translation from the World Bank documents to the ground realities in Pench, participatory methodologies, microplanning strategies and concepts of development for conservation have all shifted in important ways. Such shifts form the focus of this study. "The paper explores the diversity within the SFD as an important determinant of project success and as a factor affecting transmission of project messages, concluding that implementing institutions must be recognised as peopled by individual agents with varied agendas and attitudes who move within ordered, hierarchical work cultures. Their ability to implement projects is shaped by their understanding of the central concepts, their freedom to act within the organisation and their personal motivation to change their working behaviours as required by the project. These factors influence their interactions with beneficiaries to implement project activities. Villagers relate to the SFDs as entities that have power over their lives and simultaneously have negotiated relations with individual agents within the SFDs. Such relations, on both levels, have historically deep roots and are difficult and slow to change yet impact greatly on the implementation of the project. Rather than ignoring such factors and relationships, projects would benefit from analysis of these ghosts which shape the understudied processes underlying implementation. "In this case study, the antecedent conditions for the Project were not conducive because of a lack of experience of such projects and a lack of trust between the parties. The groundwork needed for the required participatory mechanisms and relationship changes was still in its infancy as the Project drew to a close. Transmission of the Project ideas, ethos and methodology was severely limited, partially due to a lack of effective mechanisms for concept transmission and partially due to elements of both villagers and SFDs still being shackled by hegemonic power relations and resistance to change. "In practice, rather than ghosts interfering in the project, it is more useful to perceive the project as a blip in the ongoing negotiation of relations between foresters and people, which may or may not act as a catalyst for more sustained changes and the development of locally appropriate solutions."
IASC, common pool resources, conservation--case studies, protected areas, rural development, parks, wildlife