Heterogeneity and Collective Action for Forest Management

2011 Occasional Paper
By Nagendra, Harini

Heterogeneity influences the likelihood of collective action for forest management. Theoretical examinations, focusing largely on economic heterogeneity, suggest that heterogeneity increases the likelihood of collective action. Field research however indicates that heterogeneity, whether in economic, social, or other dimensions, presents a challenge for collective action with variations in perceptions of costs and benefits amongst different groups, high transaction costs faced by the disadvantaged, decrease in trust because of differences in power hierarchies, and challenges posed by differences in resource access. The costs of collective action tend to be disproportionately borne by the poor, by women, and artisanal castes who are especially dependent on forest products. Elite capture of benefits of community action can also further exacerbate relative poverty and inequity. These challenges can be dealt with effectively by strong local institutions and federations. Governments and donor agencies have had mixed success in addressing heterogeneity, largely due to a tendency to engage in blueprint thinking, seeking standardized large scale solutions.