Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Chapter 6: Working with local populations to adapt institutions for more effective natural resource governance

Community/professional partnership in addressing institutional issues
Steps in institutional analysis and reform
Case study: Finding a solution to the problem in Garin Dan Djibo

Preceding chapters have addressed the need for institutional analysis in community forestry projects and have presented key issues that enter into such an analysis. This chapter highlights practical considerations involved in carrying out an institutional analysis and implementing rules changes in a community. The first part of the chapter addresses issues that are relevant throughout the process, focusing on the need to develop a partnership between outside professionals and local community members in order to confront these complex institutional issues. The second part of the chapter describes seven steps that typically might comprise a community's institutional analysis. These steps review the information gathering process that was presented in Chapters 3-5. In addition some related issues are noted.

No one should begin a process of institutional study and change with the illusion that it will be easy or simple. Craftsmen who set out to make an appropriate, durable object must do two things. First, they must understand the purpose of the object. This requires identifying a problem and determining how their object will solve that problem. Second, they move on to the design stage. For this they need to know the characteristics of the materials they will use and the tools that are available.

Groups working on institutional issues face similar considerations. First, they must understand what the problem is, and what a solution to that problem might be. Identification of the problem will suggest what kinds of solutions might be appropriate. Second, the groups must have an idea of what kinds of people they will be working with and what tools are available to produce the institutional changes that will solve the problem. They must be realistic about what they can and cannot expect to accomplish by changing various rules.

Unfortunately many institutional problems are more complex than the problems involved, say, in producing a chair or a table. Institutional arrangements are designed to fashion predictable patterns of behaviour using a quirky sort of material: human beings. Unlike wood, screws and glue (which act in quite predictable ways), human beings think, have their own preferences and are capable of working out strategies to attain their ends. Their actions do not follow the same type of laws that govern the way screws, once started, chew into wood if pressure is applied to turn them, or the way that glue dries when exposed to air.

The sections that follow will discuss some of the implications of dealing with these complex issues of human organization, including the need to work with local populations during all phases of the process, and the importance of anticipating further adaptations in the system. Institutional reformers cannot expect to produce a definitive design; more appropriately the population will propose solutions that will be tested and further adapted as the community experiments with different options to find out which are best suited to its needs. As conditions and resource availability change, institutional arrangements will continue to evolve.

People working in community forestry who are serious about addressing institutional concerns need to consider these issues systematically, beginning with the design phase of the project (when they consider which activities are feasible and which will have the greatest chance of success) and continuing all the way through implementation, when the approach will continue to be adapted and refined. While each institutional analysis will be somewhat different, depending on specific local conditions, the steps outlined in the box characterize a typical institutional analysis that might be undertaken by a community working in collaboration with outside professionals.

Steps Typically Undertaken in an Institutional Analysis and Reform

The following steps to institutional reform are all carried out by the local community that will, in most cases, be working in collaboration with outside professionals involved in the community forestry project.

Step 1 Define the resource governance problems in the community.

Step 2 Analyse the characteristics of the resources that pose problems in the community. Consider options for improving governance of these resources. Define the institutional demands associated with various interventions. Which intervention can be successfully accomplished without embarking on institutional change? Which interventions would require collective decisions, community regulation and enforcement?

Step 3 Analyse the community's capacity for collective action.

Step 4 Analyse the rules systems already at work in the community and how they promote or hinder sustainable resource use. Investigate whether any institutional changes will require the concurrence of some higher level of government and assess how likely it is that villagers can obtain cooperation at that level.

Step 5 In light of information gathered in Steps 2-4, identify the 'best bets' for improving: resource governance and the institutional adjustments that will be needed. Exclude those which at least for the time being appear to require collective community action on a level above what the local community can realistically expect to achieve. Focus instead on those which are likely to have the greatest impact at a level of collective action that will not strain the capacity of the community.

Step 6 Plan a strategy for implementing the project that includes not only technical interventions such as tree planting or protection but also a study of how any needed institutional changes, such as the establishment of new rules (at the constitutional, collective decision-making or operational level), will be carried out. Begin implementing the rules changes.

Step 7 Monitor the changes, assess the impact and revise institutional arrangements as necessary.

These steps will be reviewed in greater detail later in the chapter, in addition to particular concerns that may need to be addressed at each stage. Before addressing these specific considerations, however, this chapter discusses an important issue of relevance to the entire process: the need to establish a functional partnership with the community in addressing these institutional issues.

Community/professional partnership in addressing institutional issues

Field workers who are active in community forestry are generally well aware of the importance of local participation in resource management activities. Community forestry begins with the premise that local participation is a crucial element in all aspects of the project. The emphasis on local participation in decision-making becomes particularly important when dealing with institutional issues.

There are a number of reasons why community participation is so important at all stages of institutional analysis and change. The first is that institutions are made up of people, not trees; community members know themselves and each other far better than any practitioner who has not grown up in the community4 Many institutional arrangements are not formal, and there are often no written descriptions of how they work. Hence, the only way to determine the working rules system is to tap the knowledge of local community members. This is much easier to do when people feel that they are part of the process, know how the information will be used and have a stake in the positive outcome of the exercise.

4 E. Ostrom (1992) indicates the range of local circumstances that institutional arrangements must into if they are boot durable and effective.

A second reason for the importance of community participation is that, as noted above, human behaviour is not always predictable. From experience local people know how their fellows will likely react in different situations and will be much better at anticipating problems and issues that may arise. They know who can be relied on to keep a commitment. They know what the pressing problems are that may cause people to deviate from normal patterns arid perhaps violate rules. And they know their limits as a community and how much effort they can realistically devote to creating and operating institutions.

Finally, community participation is crucial because institutional issues do not go away. The project and the intervention of the professional forester may end after a few years when the trees have been planted or the community has committed itself to a forest protection plan. While some institutional issues will have been addressed up to this point, it is inevitable that new issues will surface as time passes. When the trees have grown to a point where various products can be harvested a host of new questions will arise. As populations increase or decrease around the community forest, new governance decisions will have to be made. Local people need to understand why institutional arrangements are so important to the success of their resource governance activities and how these arrangements may need to be adapted as conditions change over time. This may happen only if they have been fully involved from the outset.5

5 Outsiders should not presume, however, that community members and local users of renewables are unaware of these issues. Indeed, in some cultures and in some places local people demonstrate what can only, in honesty, be described as a sophisticated awareness of the interplay between operational, collective decision-making and constitutional rules, and a very deft sense of institutional analysis and design (Thomson, 1997). Outsiders who ignore this social capital and presume to dictate new institutional arrangements to the "ignorant locals" soon lose all credibility. On the other hand, those with the humility to recognize local social capital of this sort can soon establish extremely productive relationships with effective local partners who can build on and reinforce the local capacity for stewardship of forest resources.

Professionals working in community forestry (whether foresters or social scientists) continue to play a critical role in situations in which there is a partnership between outsiders and the local community. Some of the most useful contributions are discussed in the accompanying box. In addition to playing this facilitating role, they must be prepared to make decisions in one key area: how most effectively to use the money and resources of the funding organization. If after careful study and discussions with the local community outsiders are convinced that a certain community forestry intervention will not be successful in the community, it is their responsibility to find ways either to adapt the intervention so that it will work or to choose another community where the investment of resources is more likely to yield positive results.

The outside professional also plays an important role when institutional issues extend beyond the boundaries of a particular community. National policy as well as regional or local government edicts may have an impact on community forestry activities at the village level. The professional can have a useful role in bringing information about problematic rules to the attention of the authorities and pressuring them, when appropriate, to reconsider the policies in light of their negative impact on local activities.

The Role of the Forester

Outside professionals working with a community on institutional issues play a number of useful roles. They can raise issues that may not have occurred to the community. They can propose a framework and a systematic process to use in analysing issues, thereby helping to ensure that no important considerations are omitted. They can try to make sure that the full range of options is considered when decisions have to be made. They can offer suggestions based on their prior experience with other communities about how different solutions have worked in the past. Once the professional has ensured that the maximum amount of information has been considered and the full range of options has been examined, the actual decisions to modify community-level institutional arrangements should be left up to the community.

The rest of this chapter discusses the steps in carrying out an institutional analysis. While these are described as 'steps' in order to help clarify the process, they need not necessarily follow the order in which they are presented. Often, for example, the analysis of the resources, the community and the rules will be carried out simultaneously in a preliminary study to determine the feasibility of implementing community forestry activities. These issues could all be addressed during a PRA, for example, in which the community works with several outsiders to define critical issues in resource management and determine how those issues will be addressed. One critical part of such a study would be to gather the information needed to do the institutional analysis.

Steps in institutional analysis and reform

Step 1: Defining the products that are involved in resource governance problems
Step 2: Analysing the characteristics of the products according to the framework developed in Chapter 3
Step 3: Analysing the community's capacity for collective action
Step 4: Analysing the rules systems in the community as well as outside rules that affect resource governance
Step 5: Identifying 'best bets' for improving resource management and the institutional adjustments that will be needed
Step 6: Planning and implementing institutional changes
Step 7: Managing institutional change and the consequences of change

The first five steps in the process are oriented toward defining the problem and deciding which institutional issues require attention in order to make project activities successful. This preparatory work is vitally important. As discussed in Chapter 3, not all forestry activities require collective decisions and community regulation. There are many activities that can be successfully undertaken at the individual level. Indeed, one reason for some past failures in community forestry projects is that they have tried to make all activities (even those that could have been carried out individually) into collective efforts. This only compounds governance problems unnecessarily.

Step 1: Defining the products that are involved in resource governance problems

Together with the community, decide which resource governance areas pose problems. Identify the particular goods and services involved (forage and poles as in Maman's case, fruits, fuelwood, animal habitat, windbreaks, water retention, etc.). At this stage in the process several different issues may be studied. Later, after assessing the problems posed by each issue, the community may decide that the solutions to one problem are more feasible than those to another. The community will then prioritize them according to their gravity and the likelihood that a solution can be implemented successfully.

Step 2: Analysing the characteristics of the products according to the framework developed in Chapter 3

Chapter 3 provided a framework for determining whether a particular forest product is a private, toll, common pool or public good/service. Each of these types of goods and services creates a different kind of incentive affecting how people will behave toward the resource. In this part of the analysis, the community will consider the characteristics of the products defined in Step 1 and consider how the problems are related to the characteristics of the resource. It may be, for example, that access cannot be easily controlled (as with Maman's trees) and the resource thus has the characteristics of a common pool good. What types of intervention might resolve this governance problem and what kinds of institutional changes might be required to make the intervention effective?

Step 3: Analysing the community's capacity for collective action

If some or all of the problems identified in Steps 1 and 2 appear to require collective decision-making and community efforts to improve management, the next part of the analysis needs to look at the community's capacity to carry out these group decisions. Chapter 4 discussed some of the indicators that will help to determine whether the community is more or less likely to succeed in implementing such collective decisions.

This kind of collective reflection may raise sensitive issues within the community. It is important that the issue not be raised in terms of whether the community is 'good' or 'bad.' Instead the professional can explain that different interventions would require different levels of community involvement. Only those that have a reasonable chance of success should be attempted; to do otherwise merely wastes the time of both villagers and the outside professionals. The purpose of the analysis, then, is to identify within the possible range of actions those which, in light of a realistic analysis of the characteristics of the community, have the best chance of success.

Step 4: Analysing the rules systems in the community as well as outside rules that affect resource governance

In addition to making an analysis of the resources and the community, it is necessary to assess how institutional arrangements work in the community. As discussed in Chapter 5, this part of the analysis will consider how the community is already organized to deal with resource and other management issues. It is important to study the rules both inside the community as well as external rules that affect community members' actions. Most communities exist within complex sets of institutional arrangements. Some of these rules are local in origin and some are created and enforced by higher levels of government. These complex arrangements can be highly supportive of community forestry activities just as they can obstruct them.

Rules created by higher authorities (such as cutting permits and rules regulating transportation and marketing of forest products) all have their rationales. Often, however, these rules do little more than increase the transactions costs for local people who want to engage in community forestry activities without otherwise contributing to sustainable resource management. When this is the case, the rules need to be re-examined. Just as community members should be realistic in assessing the local situation, so foresters should be willing to critique institutional arrangements at a higher level, including those originating with their own agencies, and work to change them if necessary to modify incentives to encourage better stewardship of resources by local people.

The purpose of the rules analysis is to identify how the rules systems already in place either promote or hinder sustainable resource use. When there is a problem, it is particularly important to identify (1) what type of rule (operational, collective decision-making or constitutional) is involved and. (2) where the rule comes from (within the community or outside) because this will help determine what kind of institutional change is required to remedy the situation.

Step 5: Identifying 'best bets' for improving resource management and the institutional adjustments that will be needed

Once the resources, the community and the rules systems have been assessed, the community and the field worker will be in a much better position to determine where their energies and efforts will yield the most benefits. Steps 1 and 2 will give them an idea of how pressing the need is to change resource management arrangements. Steps 3 and 4 will give them an idea of the possibilities and constraints to collective action and of the types of rules changes that would be useful in the community. Using this information and the experience and wisdom of both the community members and the professionals, they can determine the best options for improving resource governance and the kinds of institutional adjustments that will be necessary to accomplish those objectives.

Step 6: Planning and implementing institutional changes

In the next part of the planning process the population and the professional collaborators will try to work out a strategy for amending institutional arrangements as required by the project's activities. There are several issues to be considered as these strategies are developed.

· Work with existing institutions wherever possible. Outsiders often have a tendency to favour creating new institutions to deal with issues that arise in projects. Sometimes they consider certain aspects of local institutions to be undesirable, especially if they notice ethnic-, wealth-, gender- or caste-based rules that favour one group over another in accessing resources. There are often sizeable transactions costs involved in creating new institutions, however, and frequently these new institutions prove to be unsustainable and do not have the support of the community. Even if existing institutions are imperfect (either in the eyes of the community or the view of outsiders), local people will probably be more comfortable with them than with imported rules. Imported rules may well have impacts on people's options, prospects and conduct that can be uncertain and are not guaranteed to have positive results.

With rare exceptions it is best for outsiders working with communities to accept local institutional arrangements as legitimate and to offer suggestions as to how any rules changes required by community forestry activities can fit into the structures already in place. This usually proves to be more successful in the long term than attempting to establish parallel or competing institutional arrangements, although in the short term it may well be more costly in terms of time.

· Look for incremental rather than dramatic changes in rules systems. Outsiders also sometimes try to overhaul the entire rules system as they work out arrangements amenable to carrying out project activities. This too is usually a problematic approach in so far as it risks bogging down project activities in complex political quagmires. It usually works better to make the institutional changes in small increments, making only the minimum adaptations necessary in order to make the project work at any given point in time. This is usually less threatening to the established order and makes it easier to modify rules arrangements that do not work as expected. If the changes do work as intended, the community will be more willing to agree to other rules amendments as they are needed.

· Work at the simplest applicable level of the rules system. Changes to the rules should be made at the most superficial level at which the changes will have the desired result. Chapter 5 described the levels of rules hierarchy: operational rules at the surface, collective decision-making rules that underlie them and constitutional rules at the deepest level. It is important to identify clearly what types of rules changes are needed and not to attempt to change rules at a level that is deeper than necessary. That is, if a change in operational rules is sufficient to control the way people cut wood, and these rules can be decided within existing collective decision-making structures, do not try to change the collective choice and constitutional arrangements. This approach will be less disruptive to local practices and the community's overall sense of equilibrium. It is also easier to cancel or modify new operational rules if they prove unworkable than it is to undo changes made at deeper levels.

At times there may be a need to change rules at a deeper level. In such cases it is important for all involved to acknowledge that changes in the operational rules alone will not have the desired impact. It is critically important that the community be fully involved in such changes and that it agrees that the new arrangements are both necessary and more appropriate. The general principle remains, however, that changes should be made incrementally and at the level where they will have the greatest impact on people's interaction with their environment.

· Examine external as well as internal rules systems. People's behaviour is influenced by local rules systems and also by regional and national rules that are beyond the control of the local population. Part of the analysis of the rules involves determining how external rules systems affect the local rules and decisions people make about resource governance.

One advantage of the partnership of outside professionals with the local community is that often outsiders have the knowledge and the means to identify and eventually seek to change external rules that are problematic. The strategy for improving institutional arrangements should identify changes that are needed in external rules and discuss what kinds of action might lead to such rules changes. When external rules changes are needed, professionals may need to find ways in which their organization (whether governmental or non-governmental) can exert leverage to modify rules that discourage community forestry activities6

· Anchor the rules in the local reality. If rules are to work they need to come out of the experience of local people and the realities of the community. There is no blueprint for the best types of rules to make a forestry activity successful. Instead every community will refine its own rules, taking into careful consideration the characteristics of the resources being governed, the community and the existing rules system.

When the community is active in devising and amending rules systems people are more likely to consider the rules to be legitimate. They will also, then, be more likely to abide by the rules voluntarily, thereby reducing transactions costs of enforcing them and resolving disputes. Equally important, if people believe the rules are legitimate they will be less inclined to protect those who violate the rules. All of this helps to promote a stronger 'culture of compliance' in the community.

6 NGOs in some countries, for example, have promoted policy dialogue at the national level on resource management and governance issues. This can lead to changes in rules (such as simplifying procedures to obtain cutting permits or amending national tenure statutes so that they recognize local practices) that reduce transactions costs for villagers and give them greater responsibility for natural resource management.

Step 7: Managing institutional change and the consequences of change

Once the community has developed its strategy for changing institutional arrangements as necessary to improve local resource governance, it will begin implementing the plan. Ideally this should take place through a series of incremental changes to existing procedures as outlined in Step 6, above. At this stage in the process it is critical to have procedures in place (1) to monitor the changes and the impact they are having in practice7 and (2) to resolve the conflicts that will inevitably occur.

7 The International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) research programme and database is designed to provide highly detailed monitoring and evaluation of forestry activities. National researchers are now active in Nepal, India, Uganda, Madagascar, Mali, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala. Further information about IFRI can be obtained from E. Ostrom or C. Gibson at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA. Telephone: (1) 812-855-0441; Fax: (1) 812-855-3150; E-mail: or

· Monitoring changes in the rules systems. Monitoring rules is critical to establishing effective, well-adapted working rules. Monitoring identifies and sanctions people who violate rules. It also reassures community members that if they follow the rules (regulating access to common property resources, for example) they will not be the only ones to do so. Enforcement mechanisms will help to ensure that everyone is subject to the same rules.8

Depending on the characteristics of the resource it is sometimes possible to monitor compliance at very low cost: the resources may be in a highly visible place or be easy to protect with a low-cost fence. In other situations monitoring is much more costly. Effective monitoring may depend on being able to mobilize money to pay guards or mobilize labour to serve as guards. In these cases the transactions costs of monitoring must be factored into the overall cost (whether covered by the government, a project or community members themselves) of making the community forestry activity a success. If some of the costs are initially subsidized from the outside, careful consideration must be given to how these arrangements will be sustained after the outside assistance comes to an end.

· Establishing mechanisms for conflict resolution. Monitoring is indispensable to assuring participants in a community forestry activity that others are complying. But just as important are fair, low-cost dispute resolution mechanisms that are capable of settling the problems that inevitably result from rule application and changes. If disputes are not resolved, this will undermine confidence in the viability of the system.

It is important that any dispute resolution systems be perceived as being fair so that community members do not feel that others can 'get away with something' because of their political or other connections. It is also important that disputes be resolved without sizeable cost to the disputants and the community at large. When costs are high and disputes are not resolved confidence in the system erodes. This can happen, for example, when somebody violates a rule and is caught. If the local community has no effective, low-cost way of sanctioning the individual, those who want the rules enforced must appeal to officials at some higher level. This is likely to be costly in terms of time and/or money. People faced with such a situation may conclude that it is not worth the trouble to enforce compliance. In these circumstances the system will quickly break down.

These issues should be addressed early in the planning process and then be monitored throughout the life of the project. Because people may at first be reluctant to deal openly with the question of conflict, the facilitator needs to use considerable tact. Conflict should not be characterized negatively but rather as an indicator that different stakeholders have different interests in resource use. The process of conflict resolution provides an opportunity to review the needs of various stakeholders and to decide how they can be addressed jointly in the context of the larger resource governance strategy.

The experience of the community is invaluable in determining how conflicts can be resolved as well as in identifying those disputes which are likely to be intense and which may possibly have no satisfactory solution. With this information, the facilitator can reassess the legal and political feasibility of various community forestry activities. If it is clear that certain disputes cannot be resolved cheaply and fairly it may be necessary to re-evaluate which activities are indeed most appropriate for that particular community.

· Dealing with problems of corruption. One of the most difficult issues to be confronted in community forestry (and any other issue involving governance) is controlling corruption and abuse of power. Community forestry activities often do not involve large sums of money and thus may appear not to be subject to the same pressures of corruption as more capital intensive projects. Even when large sums of money are not involved, however, the activities involve issues such as employment and resource use that may have great value for certain individuals or interest groups. Corruption in community forestry projects most often involves individuals who turn project benefits to their own private use instead of ensuring their equitable distribution among community members. This often leads to the failure of the activity since people who do not expect to reap the benefits of the project (because these are being siphoned off by more powerful individuals) are unlikely to invest the effort needed to make it a success. In such cases people may engage in diverse forms of resistance such as failing to comply with the rules, refusing to take their turn in monitoring and enforcing rules or contributing materials, and not paying local taxes.

In situations where such problems are likely to occur community residents will almost certainly be aware of the dangers. They will either have ideas about how to deal with them or they will strongly suspect as a result of prior experience that the problems are insurmountable. The facilitator then needs to decide whether the programme should be dropped altogether or whether it might be possible to focus on a subset of activities in which the benefits are less prone to diversion. In cases where the outcome is uncertain, the promoters of the activity should start very slowly, avoiding major investments until experience demonstrates whether the community can control potential sources of corruption or not.

8 E. Ostrom (1990) provides both the theory and illustrative cases (irrigation, ground water, fisheries.) about the critical importance of reliable monitoring in the management of common property resources.

After these cautionary words about the process of institutional reform, the Guidelines Box summarizes the steps in analysing the information gathered. The case study then returns to Garin Dan Djibo to show how (having analysed the resource, the community and the rules system) the community confronted the issues raised by Maman's gawo trees.

Guidelines for Implementing an Institutional Analysis: Putting the Pieces Together

The purpose of this part of the study is to identify the 'best bets' for institutional reform and to begin planning activities with the community and authorities.

1. Review the results of the analysis of incentives that flow from the nature of the resource itself, from the community and from the various rules.

2. Note the key incentives that appear to have the greatest impact on resource use in the community. Divide these into those which have a positive impact and should be reinforced or imitated where appropriate, and those which have a negative impact that indicates that some compensating action needs to be taken.

3. Think through which solutions may be the most feasible in addressing the problems that have been identified. The following questions may help focus the community's reflection on these issues.

· What is the priority problem?

· Is the problem caused by a characteristic of the resource (i.e. private incentives will be insufficient to protect the resource), meaning that additional rules are needed? Or is the problem that some existing rule creates disincentives, suggesting that the rules need to be changed?

· If new rules are needed, how can they be designed so that they create incentives to protect/nurture/invest in the resource (depending on the type of problem identified)? If old rules need to be changed, which rules, and at what level?

· What degree of collective action is required to implement and enforce the rules changes that are being considered?

· Is the community capable of such collective action? If not, is there another type of rule or activity that might solve the problem and that the community (or some segment of the community) could successfully produce and enforce?

· What forces outside the community will facilitate or constrain the implementation of the proposed solution?

· Are changes required at higher levels as well? If so, how feasible are these changes and who will work on them?

· If it is not feasible to make necessary changes at higher levels are there any other possible solutions that do not depend on these higher level changes?

· What transactions · costs are involved in implementing and enforcing the rules changes that are being considered?

Several considerations should be Kept in mind as the feasibility of various options is reviewed

· Work with existing institutions in the community as much as possible; this is easier and generally less risky than creating new institutions.

· In general prefer incremental refinements and adaptation of existing policies to dramatic overhauls that are risky and harder to fine-tune or retract in light of later experiences,

· Go no deeper than necessary in implementing rules changes. That is, start with the operational rules and move down to more complex levels only if these more superficial changes are clearly insufficient to solve the problem. This is generally more efficient! In terms of minimizing transactions costs and is less disturbing to community practices.

· Anchor new rules in local realities as much as possible; create solutions that match local conditions rather than Importing some preconceived or standardized solution that will be less appropriate in the milieu.

4. Prioritize the proposed activities according to their feasibility and their likely effectiveness.

Establish a clear programme with short-term, intermediate-term and long-term objectives for what the community wishes to accomplish. Begin with those activities that are most likely to show successful results in the short term in order to build the community's confidence and increase the inhabitants' experience with institutional reform.

Where necessary, be prepared to admit that there may not be a feasible and effective solution to the problem. In such cases the community and the outsider should agree to end the process gracefully by focusing on another problem, postponing the solution until con-straining conditions change in favour of success or simply deciding that the outsiders efforts will be more productive in a different community where circumstances are more favourable.

5 From the outset include processes to monitor implementation of any institutional reforms and their impact. Expect to fine-tune the process as additional information becomes available during implementation.

Case study: Finding a solution to the problem in Garin Dan Djibo

With the help of the forester, the Garin Dan Djibo team members had now collected a large amount of information and begun analysing the characteristics of the resource, the community and its rules system. They felt that they had a pretty good understanding of the issues that needed to be addressed in the gawo case. They were all convinced, having learned more about the gawo tree during their investigations, that it was worth spending the time to resolve the issue. They also believed that if the institutional issues could be satisfactorily resolved more villagers could be persuaded to protect the tree. This would benefit the environment of the village and also contribute to improving the livelihood of the individuals who protected the trees, since they would gain from the increased production of grains and peanuts at a time when chemical fertilizers were beyond the reach of many farmers. At the same time, they realized that the issues they had identified in their analysis were not simple ones and that it would probably take some negotiation and possibly several attempts over an extended period of time to come up with a solution that would work over the longer term.

Their analysis of the resource, the community and the rules led them to several preliminary conclusions.

(1) Without community action regulating use, people would tend to underinvest in the gawo (because of its status as a common pool good). This is because individuals, such as Maman, who decided to invest in the tree could not be sure of getting its benefits. Observing experiences like Maman's, people would soon decide that there was no use working so hard to protect and nurture the seedlings in their fields.

(2) Any action to change the rules would have to take into consideration the practical aspects of enforcing the rule since the trees in question are generally out of sight of the village and controlling access had been part of the original problem. Changing the rules without providing for enforcement would do little to improve the situation.

(3) Any action to change the rules would also have to take into consideration certain constraints in the community, namely the difficulty of reaching consensus at the village level. Actions requiring any group organization would probably be more effective if carried out at the neighbourhood level.

(4) Where actions at the village level were required, it would probably be necessary either to strengthen existing decision-making bodies or to create new ones that could act independently of the neighbourhood conflicts.

(5) Resolution of the gawo management problem would require clarification of the operational rules and close attention to villagers' and herders' different perceptions of who has rights to regulate use of naturally growing trees.

The team members decided to come up with a set of proposals that they could present to the elders and then, they hoped, to a larger village meeting. While they knew that such meetings had been problematic in the past, they felt that their study had generated considerable interest in the community as they had discussed what they were doing with family and neighbours.

People had begun to take an interest in the case and because men from all three neighbourhoods were involved in the study they did not see it (as they had at first) as "just Maman's problem" or an issue for his neighbourhood alone.

Determining the Most Appropriate Operational Rules

The team members decided that the first question to be addressed was the confusion over the rules governing access to tree products (operational rules) during the dry season. The problem they had identified was that the people who invested their effort in protecting the trees considered them to belong to the category of 'planted' trees and that therefore permission would be required to harvest their products at any time of the year. The herders, however, considered the trees to be 'natural' and therefore open access (as long as the tree was not permanently damaged) during the dry season. The group discussed several possible solutions to this problem.

One solution that was quickly dismissed was the possibility of trying to enforce the existing national law (formal but non-working) that prohibited the cutting of any live tree at any time without permission of a forestry agent. If enforced this would prevent herders from cutting any trees in the territory, protecting the gawo in the process. This solution was rejected for several reasons: the villagers thought that it would be a lot of trouble (transactions costs) to get the forester to enforce the rule since they had to travel 30 km each time to make a complaint. While they did not say so in front of the forester they were also concerned (1) that often the agents required some payment to come to villages to investigate infractions and (2) that once they demanded enforcement they might be subjected to the same rule. This would prevent them from cutting trees around the village, or even their own gawo trees, for products such as the construction poles that they needed. All agreed that it was preferable to work out a solution within their own local rules system.

The group considered several possible rules changes. They thought of possibly extending the ban against entering fields (already in force during the rainy season) to include the dry season as well. This would effectively keep herders out of fields throughout the year. This solution would have the advantage of not creating conflicts over who had rights to regulate natural trees since they would not be making a rule about the tree but rather the land on which the trees were growing. But it would also mean an end to the long, complementary relationship the villagers had enjoyed with herders. Few thought that this was a good idea and even fewer thought that it could be enforced.

Discussion then turned to rules directly affecting tree use. The problem, all agreed, was protecting the investment in time and energy that people put into their trees. If they established a blanket ban on cutting any trees on fields without permission, or even one limited to cutting gawo, they would be protecting some trees in which the owners had put little or no effort. These were the trees that, in the herders' view, were planted and protected by God. It was clear from discussions that this solution would result in endless conflicts, a situation that the villagers were eager to avoid if possible.

With these thoughts in mind the team decided to look for a middle course. In the end they agreed that the best solution would be to negotiate an agreement with the herders whereby the village would extend the protection of 'planted' trees to include 'protected' trees in which the owner had invested time or money. It would be the responsibility of the owner to demonstrate that he had invested in the tree by constructing a small fence of thorns or branches around the trunk. The fence would not serve physically to keep people out, but would serve as an indicator that this was a 'protected' tree. The owners had invested labour and therefore the tree could not be cut or harvested without their explicit permission. This would leave open the possibility that a person who wanted to use the tree could negotiate with the owner to harvest parts of the tree (branches or poles, for example) with his permission and probably in exchange for some type of payment such as deposits of animal manure on the surrounding field.

The team members were quite pleased with this solution and felt that it balanced the various needs of community members and herders in a fair and responsive way. How, then, they wondered, would they implement the new decision?

Having carefully analysed their community, the team members knew that there were problems with decision-making structures in the community. They decided nevertheless that it was important to work through existing channels as much as possible in order to avoid antagonizing the elders. They decided to take their proposed rules changes to the chief and the Council of Elders. With their permission they would then present the proposals to a village assembly for discussion. The team was fairly sure that in this case, because of the participatory nature of the process it had gone through to study the issue, the village would be willing to set aside its differences and agree to the change.

If the village agreed the next step would be to hold a meeting with the herders at the borehole to discuss the issue with them. The team members wanted first of all to reassure the herders that they valued their relationship. But they also wanted to propose the rules change in order to prevent future conflicts that might result in a deterioration of the relationship between the two groups. They knew that after talking to the herders they might have to further refine the rules to account for additional concerns of the pastoralists, but at least they would be a step closer to finding a solution.

Anticipating Problems of Enforcement

The team members realized that it would probably be easier to change the rule than to ensure its enforcement. In fact the issue of enforcement was one that caused them considerable worry. They knew that not all herders who frequented their territory would attend the meeting and even if they could get those herders to agree that would not guarantee that others would respect the decision. They fully expected that before the new rules were widely understood there were likely to be transgressions. They also knew that setting up a system of effective enforcement would require organized action that was probably beyond the scope of the village as a whole, given all its factional differences.

The team agreed that some sort of system to patrol the outlying fields would be necessary, at least during the first one or two dry seasons until the rules became widely known and followed. Depending on the reaction of the herders, patrols might have to continue for many years, at least on an ad hoc basis. The team decided that each neighbourhood should set up a system to patrol its own lands, or not to patrol them, as it wished. Since the fields of neighbourhood farmers were more or less contiguous this seemed to be a workable solution; youths riding horses or donkeys could circulate among the fields, especially toward the end of the dry season when transgressions were most likely to occur. Some of the neighbourhoods, including Maman's, had a longer tradition of protecting gawos and thus had a stronger incentive to patrol than other neighbourhoods where the farmers were only beginning to get interested in the issue.

In order to show the seriousness of the infraction the team thought that the judgment of offenders should be at the village level rather than the neighbourhood level. The team proposed that the chief establish a committee comprised of one of the elders who had participated in the study team, as well as one committee member from each neighbourhood. This group would judge the cases and establish a system of fines to be levied depending on the seriousness of the damage. "But what if the guilty party refuses to accept the judgment?" one of the team members pondered. Someone else suggested that perhaps they could ask the forester as an agent of the state to lend his authority to the process if, for example, a herder refused to abide by the ruling.

The forester was pleased that the villagers had gained enough confidence in him that they were willing to ask for such a service. At the same time, however, he felt a bit uncomfortable about putting himself in the position of enforcing local rules that, while not exactly contradicting state policy, were at least highly independent of it. He realized, however, that in this case he could always resort to the state interdiction against cutting any trees to assert his authority and would not have to put himself in the position of enforcing local, informal rules. With this in mind he agreed to back up the decisions of the committee as needed. He made a mental note that if he was going to continue with such community forestry activities, he would have to raise these issues with his superiors and get some clarification about the most appropriate role for agents of the state in cases such as this one.

As they came to the end of their two and one-half weeks of study and deliberations (their reflections on how to solve the problem had added a couple of days to the two-week process they had foreseen at the outset), the team members felt not only a great sense of accomplishment but also a feeling of hope that they could begin to work out some of the other resource issues that had been festering, though less dramatically than the gawos, for some time. With the approval of the chief, they organized a meeting to report on the results of their study. This was followed by a village-wide TamTam dance, the first since the previous chief had died, to celebrate their accomplishments and to galvanize interest in moving further in the process.

The forester stayed for the dance, then went back home to report to his wife, "You know, sometimes I really enjoy this job," before falling into an exhausted but happy slumber. For his part Maman told his son that the next day they would go out early and start putting up thorn fences around their remaining trees; then he too joined the dancers, jauntily tucking a sprig of gawo into the rim of his cap.


In this case study, we have seen how the community of Garin Dan Djibo, in collaboration with local extension agents, undertook an institutional analysis of a pressing agroforestry problem in their community. As a result of this analysis, they devised a set of practical proposals for how the issue might be resolved. By changing the incentives related to resource management rules they hope to affect the choices that herders make in cutting trees and that farmers make in protecting and nurturing species such as the gawo. If they are successful, the outcome should be a healthier and more productive natural resource base.

The Garin team's reflections are only the start of the process, however. As the community implements the plan, it will need to monitor these issues and modify its strategies as it observes what happens when new rules are put into place.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page