Institutional efficacy in resource management: temporally Congruent Embeddedness for Forest Systems of Western India

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Institutional ecology Property-rights regimes Embeddedness Forest resources Sustainability South Asia


Our understanding of the role of institutions and property-rights regimes in natural resource management has matured through the work of new institutional economists and common-property theorists. Even so, this literature has yet to establish clear connections between successful resource management, and a given property regime’s spatio-temporal fit. Examining people–forest interaction within a state-managed forest regime in India’s Western Ghats, this paper argues that regime efficacy in satisfying user needs, hinges on appropriately reflecting particular sociospatial contexts and incorporating temporal flexibility into its normative structure. To these ends, this study analyzes institutional structure regulating forest use and management, and examines data collected through extensive fieldwork, in-depth interviews and informal conversations with local villagers and foresters. The results suggest that user responses to access conditions, and their rationales for engaging in particular extraction practices, vary based on caste/class-based perceptions of regime legitimacy, distributional equity, and historical proprietorship rights. Furthermore, the analysis questions the viability of locally managed regimes under such heterogeneous social settings. Rather, this research recognizes the state’s vital role in mediating resource access. It suggests that regime efficacy can be fostered through state–civil society partnerships, widely distributed stakeholder-ship and firmly embedded regimes that adapt to changing sociospatial contexts through modifications to conditions of use and access. Based on the analysis, this paper explores an initial set of sociospatial and temporal parameters that promote institutional efficacy in management, and thus lays the groundwork for future studies in institutional and political ecology.



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