Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Chapter 4: The characteristics of the community and resource management incentives

Key characteristics of the community
Implications for community forestry projects
Case study: Analysis of community in Garin Dan Djibo

Chapter 3 dealt with the characteristics of goods and services provided by tree and forest resources, noting that certain characteristics are more likely to encourage nurturing behaviour toward these resources, while others encourage more rapacious exploitation. By understanding these characteristics and where necessary modifying the incentives that result in poor management, communities and foresters can follow the most promising paths to improving local resource management. Chapter 3 also highlighted the need for efforts by community governments to govern resources that produce either common pool or public goods and services. This is because individual incentives will not be sufficient to provide the desired level of investment in these resources.

This chapter considers the communities within which these resource governance and management efforts take place. Just as the resources themselves have characteristics that encourage more or less sustainable management practices, communities also have different characteristics that result in varying incentives affecting how people manage resources. In some communities, for example, there is a powerful sense of unity that generates pressure to conform to established norms. Group pressure may play an important role in getting people to engage in an activity like tree planting, or in persuading them to protect a sacred grove. In other communities the tendency to divisiveness may be an equally powerful influence. There may be two factions in the community, for example, and whatever the merit of an initiative taken by the first faction, the second will automatically refuse to participate and will actively seek ways to sabotage the initiative.

A key factor that determines a community's ability to manage resources is its social cohesion and willingness to set and strive for common goals. This does not mean that the community must be homogeneous (although this often helps). Indeed there are many communities of people with the same ethnicity, religion, family history, etc., that are deeply divided. Conversely there are many heterogeneous communities made up of people of varying backgrounds who are nevertheless able to overcome their differences in order to work toward common objectives. The key issue is whether the community is able to establish common goals, establish strategies for accomplishing those goals and then work together to follow the strategy that has been proposed.

Several characteristics of the community can give clues to the degree of its social cohesion and anticipate problems that may arise. These characteristics include the history of the community and its relations with others, its present social structure, its cultural values and the way it governs itself. These and other characteristics will be discussed later in the chapter. These characteristics in turn provide incentives or disincentives in several areas related to resource management. They include: (1) incentives to cooperate (or not to cooperate) in resource governance, (2) incentives to obey (or disobey) resource management rules, and (3) incentives to include the needs of future generations in resource management strategies (or to govern resources for short-term gain).

Once field workers have analysed the key characteristics of the community (outlined below) and identified the incentives to resource management (as outlined in the following chapter), they will be in a much better position to answer two important questions.

· Does a community have characteristics that will enable people working together to engage in cooperative ventures to manage tree and forest resources, or are project activities more realistically limited to those that can be accomplished by individuals?

· What level is most appropriate for collective action? This may be an entire village, or it may be a subgroup within the village (for example, a neighbourhood, caste or clan or religious or ethnic group) if these subgroups have a greater ability to work together. In some cases it may even be a larger conglomeration of several villages or communities.

Key characteristics of the community

Historical factors
Social factors
Economic factors
Cultural factors

The characteristics discussed below are some that may be useful in identifying incentives to good resource management in communities. The list in no way attempts to be comprehensive since there are innumerable characteristics that might in different circumstances play a role in communities' abilities to work together on resource management activities. Nor are the categories intended to be mutually exclusive. One might list ethnicity or language under cultural factors just as well as under social factors, where they are placed in this analysis. The categories are simply a convenience that may help in thinking through some of the issues that are likely to be among the most important determinants of social cohesion and the ability to collaborate on forestry activities.

Historical factors

Communities are a product of their past: current development activities take place against a historical backdrop. Historical factors may hinder or help the implementation of community forestry projects; what is undisputable is that they will have some impact on the success of those projects.

Among the historical factors that play a key role in community cohesion and resource management are:

· population and settlement history; and
· conflict history.

The population history reflects the ancestral origins of the community. In some cases all present members of the village may be descended from a single ancestor or family. This may be an important factor in current social cohesion. In other cases families may have divided or new families may have joined the community. If so, it is important to try to understand the basis on which the more recent members were admitted into the community.

The sequential arrival of families, lineages and clans may give rise to distinctions between founders and first settlers on the one hand, and later arrivals or even 'stranger' families on the other. Alternatively some founding families can be subjugated by later, more numerous and more powerful arrivals. Whatever their relative status, the two groups often view public issues quite differently. Their resource use patterns often reflect attempts to overcome perceived injustices in the historical distribution of resources. Newcomers may attempt to use a community forestry project to gain access to resources otherwise denied them. Founding families may try to use the project to maintain their traditional dominance. These are examples of historically based incentives influencing certain behaviours that can affect the implementation of community forestry activities.

The community's experience with conflict and the way it has managed conflict in the past greatly influence its present degree of social cohesion and its willingness to engage in cooperative resource management activities. Old cases of land tenure disputes, violent confrontations and contested divorces or adultery may appear to have been settled, but they may leave a residue of resentment in the community. Past conflicts often determine trust levels between members of the community and the willingness of the population to delegate decisions or responsibilities to subgroups or individuals. Bitterness that has existed for decades, even centuries, may create strong disincentives to collective action. At the very least such old sources of conflict may make arriving at a consensus very time-consuming and may even make it impossible.

Social factors

There are numerous issues related to the social structure of the community that affect its cohesion and the kinds of interests different groups may wish to protect as they seek solutions to resource management problems. Some of the most salient include:

· ethnicity and language;
· family structure;
· caste and other social divisions; and
· gender relations.

While ethnicity is not necessarily a divisive factor in communities, it certainly can have a divisive effect. It may be compounded by other issues such as the ways different ethnic groups pursue their livelihoods. One ethnic group may make its living principally from herding, for example, while another practises cultivation or fishing.

Other potentially divisive factors include religion and language. In each of these cases a key question is whether a particular local population's allegiances lie primarily with the community in which it lives, or whether it identifies more closely with interests outside the community. A particular religious sect, for example, may be more readily prepared to follow directives of its religious leader than to follow.- directives from within the community. Some ethnic groups may feel greater affinity to people of their own ethnicity who live outside the community than to their immediate neighbours. In such cases community organization for the purpose of governing resources can be difficult. In other cases, however, this is not an issue and all the inhabitants of a community share overriding common interests despite their differences. Sometimes the divisive factors work primarily inside a community. Factions within the community may be organized according to affiliation with a religion, caste or ethnic group. Even when they do not have strong ties outside the village, these factions can have different interests and concerns that make collective action more difficult.

Family structures often play an important role in creating or limiting social cohesiveness. When intermarriage is common in a community, a vast network of relationships is created that may (but does not necessarily) contribute to a common sense of identity and purpose. This is less likely to take place when other factors such as caste, ethnicity, cultural taboos or family histories discourage such intermarriage.

Gender considerations are also a key to understanding whether communities will be able to organize action in response to some of the more complex resource governance problems. It is clear that both men and women need to be integrally involved in resource management whenever, as is usually the case, both are active participants in the harvesting, transformation and use of tree products. If one group (more often women) feels that its interests are not represented when decisions are made about rules for resource access or use, it is less likely to follow the rules and to participate in enforcing them. Conversely if both men and women feel that their concerns are reflected in resource governance agreements, they will have a stronger incentive to participate in making the management plans work.

Economic factors

The preceding section described several social factors that can affect whether members of a community are more willing or less willing to work together to solve their resource management concerns. Economic factors can also play a role in determining whether people have similar or divergent interests concerning how resources should be managed. Two salient issues are:

· differences or similarities in livelihood strategies; and.
· the degree of economic stratification in the community.

People's perceptions of resources and their attitudes toward those resources will differ depending on how resources fit into their individual livelihood strategies. Some people may depend almost entirely on tree and plant resources. This would be the case of someone who specializes in the preparation of medicines or teas from plants, for example, or a charcoal maker. For others tree products may be an important input into their activities if they use tree products to feed animals or to provide fencing or fuel-wood. Others, such as shopkeepers, may have relatively little direct use for tree products.

These economic interests provide various incentives to protect, invest in and exploit tree resources. As an agriculturist Maman had an incentive to protect and maintain trees in his field in order to promote crop productivity. On the other hand the herder who cut his trees had an incentive to lop off branches for animal feed and was not concerned with what happened to the soil under the gawo trees he cut. Both of them were trying to look out for their families' economic well-being, but with dramatically different effects on the sustainable use of resources.

People's interest in the resource base also varies depending on their level of economic well-being. There is now considerable evidence to suggest that poor people often depend more heavily on forest resources to meet their subsistence needs than do people who are more wealthy. Poor people, for example, may not be able to afford gas for cooking or modern pharmaceuticals. Instead they depend on forest products for fuel and medicine. Because of this they may face very different incentives for their own use of resources and they may have strong opinions about what the rules for access and exploitation should be. As with the gender considerations above, if these concerns are not reflected in the management plans devised by the community, the incentives for some groups not to comply with the regulations are likely to be strong.

The success of many collective community forestry activities depends on people's perceptions that they want to stay in a community and are willing to make investments in it. Conversely if they expect to leave (or think that their children will do so) their interests may be divergent from those of the rest of the community. In such cases they may even destroy forestry resources in order to finance their departure.

Cultural factors

Many cultural factors affect the incentives people face in protecting and exploiting their tree and forest resources. Some of them are related to religion. People sometimes believe in the power of a religious item such as a fetish or the Quran or other holy book to seek out and punish transgressors of local rules regarding tree use or activities in forests. Such beliefs may reduce the need to monitor the behaviour of local people although there may still be a need to use other means to control access by people who do not accept these beliefs.

Cultural beliefs also play a profound role in people's sense of ownership of resources. In some communities it is unthinkable that an individual might be considered the owner of a tree or forest since people believe that those resources are only in the temporary stewardship of the current generation, which manages them on behalf of the ancestors and future generations. This creates incentives that are very different from those in another culture where people believe that trees can be property like anything else, and that the owner has absolute rights to decide what should be done with that property.

Implications for community forestry projects

Different characteristics of communities, then, provide different incentives to work collectively and to follow rules that are established. Various community characteristics also create incentives that influence people's decisions on whether they will seek the greatest immediate personal gain from resources or be willing to manage those resources for some greater community good or even take future generations into consideration as they plan their resource use.

Analysing these incentives is not easy since communities are complex and dynamic. Most of the factors discussed here are not immediately evident. Counting the number of tree species in a village may be rather easy; understanding the criteria by which leaders are selected or the nature of gender relations requires more sensitive and probing investigation. Community foresters whose training and experience are mainly technical will probably want to enlist the aid of someone with a social science orientation to collaborate on this part of the study.

Assessing Community Cohesion

All of these issues lead up to the key question: can people who inhabit the same community work together effectively, if the characteristics of the resource require it, to make a success of a community forestry activity? The first issue to assess is whether it is the cohesive factors or the divisive factors in the community that seem to be stronger. In any community there will be some divisive factors. The question is whether there are; also cohesive factors that enable people to overcome their differences in order to engage in collective action.

The community's past experience with collective action is one good indicator of whether people will be able to work together for better tree and forest resource governance. If people have tried to manage some resource or issue in common and have been successful, the incentives to attempt a natural resource management plan will be stronger than if they had no previous experience or if their previous efforts were unsuccessful. Previous collective action may include anything from building or managing a school to maintaining a trail network or irrigation system in the village or implementing a community vaccination program. If none of these types of activities have been attempted, another positive indicator may be a community's ability to organize religious or cultural activities (if all the groups within the community are included).

The various indicators of social cohesion will help to determine whether it is worthwhile to attempt collective action at the community level. If the divisive factors are much stronger than the cohesive factors, a collective activity at the community level will probably not be successful. In this case the project will have to investigate whether the collective activity that was determined to be important in the resource analysis can be undertaken at another level, for example within a neighbourhood or herders' association. In some cases it may be evident that the community (or groups within the community) is not well suited to undertake collective action at the present time. Although this conclusion may be a disappointing one, it is better to find another community to work in, where the chances of success are higher, than to put resources into a community forestry activity that is almost certain to fail. In such communities it may still be possible to undertake a limited number of activities that do not require collective action and can be carried out by individuals.

If it appears that the community is cohesive enough to engage in collective action for community forestry, there is another use for the information gathered in the community profile. As noted above, even in the most homogeneous or cohesive communities there are always divergent interests. If stakeholders' interests are identified from the outset the project can help ensure that these various concerns are taken into account as activities are planned and implemented. People's incentives to follow and participate in a community resource management plan will be stronger when they feel that their interests and concerns are represented in that plan. The importance of including stakeholders in the decision-making process will be addressed further in Chapter 5. On the basis of this discussion of the characteristics of communities and how they affect incentives for the way people manage their local resources, the Guidelines Box shows how these issues might be addressed in practice. The chapter ends in Garin Dan Djibo where the issues are illustrated by studying the case of Maman, his friends and his neighbours.

Guidelines for Implementing an Institutional Analysis: Studying the Characteristics of the Community

The purpose of this part of the study is to understand better the factors that will contribute to or inhibit a community's ability to engage in collective action to improve resource governance. Many of the tools suggested here are from the PRA toolkit, which is described in Appendix 1.

1. Gather information on the history of the community, orienting the questions around resource governance issues.

This type of information can be gathered in a historical profile, which is a semi-structured interview that focuses on such key issues as settlement history, conflicts over resources and their resolution (or non-resolution), and evidence of collective action. This activity should be carried out with people who are known for their historical knowledge. In cases where there is a disagreement about major facts or their interpretation it may be necessary to interview people who represent each side of the issue in order to get their different perspectives on the problem.

Another highly useful tool for gathering historical information related to resource governance and use is the historical matrix. This can focus on issues such as how resource use has changed over time, whether biological diversity has increased or decreased, and what conflicts have been most common.

2. Gather information on the social structure of the village as it relates to resource governance questions.

This type of information can be gathered by using various tools and conducting informal discussions with different segments of the population. One of the most useful tools will be the Venn Diagram, which uses coloured papers to identify groups and individuals both inside and outside the community who play particular roles in resource management. The Venn Diagram will probably focus on such issues as who makes and enforces various rules affecting community life, who negotiates conflicts and how people outside the community affect the governance of local resources.

3. Gather information on different socio-economic categories in the village and the implications for resource use.

Carrying out a wealth ranking, using bean piles is a useful way of focusing on socio-economic issues and is often less sensitive than direct interviewing on this topic. Once the different wealth categories have been determined using the bean technique, a follow-up interview provides the opportunity to ask about whether people in different wealth groups have similar or divergent resource use patterns. For more detailed information on the diverse perspectives of different groups, individual or family interviews can be scheduled with families from different socio-economic categories.

An alternative method for focusing on different resource use patterns is to do a matrix of resource use that distinguishes among the different use patterns of men/women, rich/aver-age/poor, insiders/outsiders, etc. Follow-up interviews can then attempt to discern why differences exist and what concerns these different stakeholders have about how the resources are governed.

4. Gather information on diverse cultural factors that unite or divide the community.

This information is often best obtained by the most informal means, that is observation and relatively unstructured discussion with individuals. The existence of animist, Hindu or Buddhist shrines, sacred groves, mosques and churches, etc., will give an idea of the cultural setting. People's cloches, hair styles jewellery and other adornments and tattoos or facial scars may reveal differences in ethnicity, caste and class. People may be more or less willing to discuss these cultural issues, especially if they are conflictual, and it may be necessary to take the time to gain peopled confidence Wore these subjects are openly discussed, in most cases if resistance is encountered It is better to shift topics rather than to press a point that may cause tension either within the community or in the outsider's relationship with community members

5. In light of all the information gathered above inventory (1) those factors which contribute to the cohesiveness of the community and Its ability to come to an agreement On resource management issues and (2) those factors which are likely to make collective action, whether to create or to enforce rules and procedures, more difficult.

6. To the extent external stakeholders are also concerned with the issue, analyse their interests, motivations and constraints.

External stakeholders can include neighbouring populations and nomadic peoples who use the resources on an intermittent basis They can also include government officials or agencies at different levels that play a role in resource governance, staff of projects active in the area and commercial' Interests. The analysis needs to consider the perspective of each of these stakeholders and analyse the incentives that influence their behaviour, what interests are they trying to strengthen or protect? What motivations do they have to change or not to change the way they do things?

Case study: Analysis of community in Garin Dan Djibo

Garin Dan Djibo is one of the older villages in the region. It was established in its current location some six generations (about 150 years) ago. The founders were three brothers who established the neighbourhoods that continue to be the basis of social and political organization in the village today. All the current inhabitants of the village, with the exception of a few temporary residents who have particular commercial interests there (the shopkeeper and the manager of the peanut warehouse, for example), are descended from a common ancestor. They are not divided by differences in language, ethnicity or religion but over the years various disputes between families have led to rather deep divisions within village society. With each dispute the village has found it more difficult to come to agreement on issues that cross neighbourhood boundaries, and over time the neighbourhood leadership has become increasingly strong in relation to the village leaders.

The chief of the village is the oldest male in the village. He is advised by a Council of Elders comprised of the two oldest males from each of the three neighbourhoods. The previous chief, despite his many years, was a strong leader to the end and was able to effectively moderate fictional disputes among the neighbourhoods. After his death some three and one-half years ago the current chief took over. He is much less effective and is widely (but quietly) criticized for favouring his own neighbourhood when differences arise. As a result, the other two neighbourhoods have taken measures to ensure that as few disputes as possible rise to the level where the chief has to respond. Though he did not say so, this is one reason why Maman had been reluctant to bring his gawo problem to the attention of the chief.

Many of the villagers of Garin Dan Djibo own a few cattle and, particularly, sheep and goats. They do not herd their own cattle, however, but turn them over to specialist herders who live outside the village and practice a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the region. These herders have their bases in small hamlets scattered around the area where two or three families live together. During the wet season the entire family lives in these hamlets where they cultivate a few crops. During the dry season the women, some of the men and the children remain in the hamlets with their sheep and goats while the male herders migrate around the region, with their own cattle as well as those they look after for others, in search of water and the best pastures. The herders have strong governance mechanisms but these are all non-formal. They are nevertheless effective at allocating water rights, resolving disputes as they arise, etc. In addition they gather at various water points in the district where they share information and use services such as the governments animal vaccination programme.

The relationship between the semi-nomadic herder population and the sedentary village population is for the most part mutually beneficial. There are cases, however, where the different requirements of their livelihoods create conflicts, such as those that arose over Maman's gawo trees.

The government officials nearest Garin Dan Djibo are located at the canton office about 15 km away. This is where the forester and extension agent are based. The villagers' relationships with the extension agents are good for the most part. Agents who make the effort to travel to the village generally enjoy a positive reception and are given a good hearing. The villagers' opinions of the administrative officials are more ambivalent. These officials are perceived as representing the government's, rather than local, interests, and villagers feel that often their concerns are not represented. As a result they avoid bringing issues to the administrative authorities whenever possible. Most of their contact is limited, occurring when they are summoned for an infraction of official rules or non-payment of taxes.

The eight-person team studying the gawo problem in Garin Dan Djibo was at first reluctant to discuss many of the issues that were most important to the community analysis, especially in front of an outsider such as the forester. No one wanted to bring up the hostilities among the neighbourhoods, for example, or their somewhat negative feelings toward administrative officials. The forester was gradually able to overcome this reticence, however, by bringing up examples from other villages and focusing on the positive aspects of the local situation. Rather than dwelling on the divisions in the village as a handicap, he instead emphasized the strengths of the neighbourhood organizations. Once the team members began to see the utility of a frank examination of these community issues, they were much more willing to discuss openly both their strengths and weaknesses.

Drawing on their analysis of the community, the gawo study team focused on several incentives and disincentives to community action in resolving the problem. First the team members noted that given past history it was unlikely that a solution requiring a high level of community organization would work. Realistically there was little hope that people from the different neighbourhoods would set aside their differences over this issue, especially if they were required to contribute labour or money. Nor would an edict of the chief be likely to galvanize community efforts. Instead, they realized, they should probably work within the strongest decision-making unit in which people were willing to engage in group action. In this case this was clearly the neighbourhood. Second, they noted that any workable solution would have to consider two major interest groups with divergent needs: the cultivators and the herders. Even though their first reaction was to say, "We own the land and should be able to do what we want on it!," deeper reflection led them to acknowledge that while they could do what they wanted (after all, Maman had carefully nurtured his trees to maturity), they could not control what might happen afterwards unless they considered the concerns of the herders as well.

This part of the analysis had been somewhat stressful and had led to several heated discussions among the team members (who it should be remembered came from all three neighbourhoods of the village). In the end they all agreed that it had been useful, however, and had helped them progress further in their thinking about how to deal with the thorny gawo issue.

Their next task, the forester proposed, was to focus on institutional issues related to the rules in the community, as well as any external rules that had an effect on decisions about how to manage resources such as the gawo.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page