Projects per year
Over the last decade, important land and forest governance reforms have taken place in many tropical countries, including the devolution of ownership rights over land and forests, decentralization that created mechanisms for forest dwellers to participate in decision making in lowest tiers of governments. These reforms have resulted in an intensive academic debate on governance and management of forests and how actors should be involved. An important but understudied element in this debate is the ways in which communities cope with new legislation and responsibilities. Property rights bestowed by the government leave many aspects undecided and require that local forest users devise principles of access and allocation and establish authority to control those processes. We studied 16 communities in the northern Bolivian Amazon to evaluate how forest communities develop and control local rules for resource access and use. We found that the first requirement to community rule design, enforcement, and effective forest management is the opportunity to, and equity of, access to forest resources among members. Under the newly imposed forestry regulations, communities took matters in their own hands and designed more specific rules, rights and obligations of how community members could and should use economically important resources. The cases suggest that communities hold and maintain capacity to prepare their own ownership arrangements and related rules, even if they are strongly conditioned by the regulatory reforms. Very specific local histories, that may differ from community to community, influence strongly how specific ideas are being shaped, which in northern Bolivia resulted in notable local differences. The results suggest that new regulatory regimes should create appropriate conditions for communities to define adequate or at least convenient forestry institutions that assure an acceptable level of collective coexistence according to each particular communal history.