The State, the Village and the Commoner: Interactions in the Management of a Western Himalayan Commons

"This report presents the results often weeks of field work in the Kulu Valley of the State of Himachal Pradesh, India, undertaken during the summer of 1994. It contributes to the on-going debate within natural resources management over the ability of local collectives, villages or user-groups, to manage common property resources. It demonstrates that in spite of property regimes established in Law, which limits the ability of users to manage common property, local collectives have continued to negotiate access and influence management of resources important for customary subsistence strategies. "The research findings included the identification of ten land use types known to local villagers, seven of which could be identified as having elements of common property. Property rights which did not exist in Law (de jure) were claimed by the villagers and existed in custom (de facto). These findings established that the commons in the study area were complicated, due to the interplay between dejure and de facto property rights, and confounded a simple application of common property theory to resource management analysis. It was also found that a village institution, the mimbers, still existed, alongside with the Mahila Mandal and Village Panchayat, and performed a number of duties such as dispute settlement between villagers and between villages regarding resource use. "The common property of the study area included a substantial portion of grazing land. This land was used by animals, and was part of the transhumance system of sheep, goat and water buffalo herding. The grazing system provided a case study of how agriculturists interacted with village pastoralists and water buffalo herders over the use and management of the pastoral commons. It was found that a system of common property management was embedded within seasonal migration cycles and grazing management decisions based on local knowledge. However, the number of village pastoralists was found to be decreasing as the social relations between agriculturists and pastoralists changed in response to an emerging orchard economy, privatization and/or closing of grazing grounds, and pressure from regulations regarding forestry."
village organization, Himalayas, mountain regions, common pool resources, forestry