Participation and Decentralized Forest Management: Social Effects of Local Government Initiatives

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"This article is based on research undertaken in eight Nicaraguan municipalities (Bonanza, Chichigalpa, Dipilto, El Castillo, Estela�­, Mozonte, Siuna and Tola), as well as an analysis of several laws and institutions at the national level. The case studies involved in-depth interviews with local and central government officials, local resource users and NGO and project officials. The municipalities were chosen to include those representing the three most important forestry contexts in the country: deforested areas (3), pine forests (2) and broad-leaf forests (3), as well as municipalities both with and without protected areas. In particular we selected municipalities that had clearly taken some kind of initiatives in the forestry sector, whether these were beneficial or not for forests or local people. Based on these case studies, this article examines the types of local forestry initiatives being promoted, the effects on resource users and the role of local participation in municipal government decisions. Though the research is preliminary, the results suggest a clear correlation between effective participation and the absence of corruption or elite capture by logging companies, but participation alone does not guarantee positive results for resource users. One of the most important factors found to adversely affect these local actors is a dominant ideology of conservation that sees resource users as the problem in deforestation. The research suggests that the main initiatives providing direct, positive benefits for local resource managers were those that took the resource users themselves as their starting point for intervention. The next section of this paper discusses the theoretical benefits of decentralization and some of the problems found with its implementation in practice. The ensuing section briefly presents the legal and institutional framework of forestry in Nicaragua. The following section presents the findings from the case studies. This is followed by the conclusions."



IASC, forest management--case studies, deforestation, decentralization, state and local governance, participatory management, forest law, conservation, forest policy