Social Forestry versus Social Reality: Patronage and Community-based Forestry in Bangladesh

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International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)


"Social forestry has acquired great significance in Bangladesh as a strategy for both forest resource management and rural development. However, the local social relations and networks which dictate the performance of social forestry have largely been ignored by planners of social forestry projects. This paper examines one of the most dominant manifestations of such social relations, the patronage network, and its implications for the performance of social forestry in rural Bangladesh. Three case studies illustrate the varied and profound implications of the patronage network for the functioning of social forestry projects. In these case study areas, farmers participating in social forestry projects (the clients or Kamla) have a deep-rooted dependency on the local elites (the patrons or Murubbi). The patrons are able to offer farmers employment opportunities, access to local government and protection during times of crisis and from harassment by other groups. The patrons, in turn, use the patronage network to influence the selection of the target farmers for the projects, to capture project benefits, and to use the farmers as support bases in local political and 'power' struggles."



rural development, community forestry