Prakash Kashwan - PhD Candidate (Joint) Friday, October 22nd, 2010 3:00 PM
Venue: Seminar Room; Workshop (513 N. Park Avenue) ============================================================================
This presentation, structured in the form of a job talk, is based on a part of my dissertation research on the politics of institutional change in India's forests. In this presentation, I analyze the variation in community claims to collective forest rights as part of a new forest property reform initiative. Through a carefully constructed comparative research design, I conducted 90 community level surveys, and conducted over a hundred interviews and discussion with actors involved in policy implementation in the western Indian state of Gujarat. I employ a mixed methods approach to analyze this data.
Statistical analyses reveal that a history of effective forest conservation institutions and representation of leaders associated with these institutions on the committees elected for the implementation of the new reform is each associated with increased probability of a community making a collective claim. Heterogeneity of private landholding affects these probabilities negatively. Local 'forest leaders' attenuate the effect of land heterogeneity and seem to promote collective action, but do not support community claims to access forest produce. Closer analyses reveal that local leaders end up working in the interests of the forest officials, even at the cost of the interests of community members that they claim to represent. In the light of these findings, I reflect upon Mancur Olson's suggestions about importance of strong leaders for collective action.