Incentives for community participation in the governance and management of common property resources: the case of community forestry in Nepal : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in International Rural Development at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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The devolution of resource management access rights, from the state to local communities, has been an important policy tool in Nepal over the last two decades. One of the major goals of this policy is to increase the participation of local users in decision-making and for them to gain benefits from the forests. However, a lack of meaningful participation amongst users, in relation to forest governance and management, has resulted in a failure to include socially marginalised groups in community decision-making and an inability to reflect the needs and aspirations of these groups within these communities. By employing a mixed method approach incorporating quantitative and qualitative methodologies, this research explores the issue of participation in the governance of common property resources; and in particular the role of incentives in increasing participation. The empirical evidence for level of participation as a function of incentives is obtained by using an ordered probit model by constructing an index of participation as a proxy for participation in governance of common property resources, while a partial least square approach is also undertaken to link the participation indicators to the various incentives. Focus group discussions and individual interviews were applied to gain insights into the influence of caste, socio-economic status and the effectiveness of the institutions in Nepal and the overall governance and management performances of community forest user groups. In this study of community forestry management regimes in the Middle Hills of Nepal, access to resources and benefits, and enforcement of legal property rights are identified as the key influential incentive that determines the effective participation of users in resource governance. The statistical and qualitative findings of this study support the argument that, for common property resource management regimes to be successful in achieving meaningful participation of the poor and disadvantaged groups, in terms of having their strong voice to influence group’s decisions in their favour, it is important to strengthen their rights to provide them fair access to resources and benefits. The policy measures may even require a deliberate focus on providing and guaranteeing the inclusion of poor and disadvantaged groups in CFUG governance structures and processes, in addition to building their capacity and bargaining power to influence decision making and to compensate for the cost of this participation through the economic empowerment of poor users. However, in the Middle Hills of Nepal, where discriminatory sociocultural norms prevail, transferring property rights to a specific group does not protect the rights of the poor and disadvantaged members. Thus, this study proposes the proportional allocation of the most productive part of a community forest to a sub-group (formed within a user group) of the poor and disadvantaged members and the transference and enforcement of legal property rights to this sub-group over the allocated forest, in order to protect their access rights to resources and to secure their greater participation in resource governance.
Community forests, Forest management, Nepal, Citizen participation, Property rights, Access rights