Engaging women and the poor: adaptive collaborative governance of community forests in Nepal

C.L. McDougall, C. Leeuwis, T. Bhattarai, M.R. Maharjan, J. Jiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Forests are a significant component of integrated agriculture-based livelihood systems, such as those found in many parts of Asia. Women and the poor are often relatively dependent on, and vulnerable to changes in, forests and forest access. And yet, these same actors are frequently marginalized within local forest governance. This article draws on multi-year, multi-case research in Nepal that sought to investigate and address this marginalization. Specifically, the article analyzes the influence of adaptive collaborative governance on the engagement of women and the poor in community forestry decision making. A description of adjustments to governance processes and arrangements is followed by the consequent changes in engagement observed, in terms of: efforts made by female and poor members to be involved, express views and exercise rights; leadership roles played by female and poor members; and the extent to which the user groups’ priorities and actions reflect the marginalized members’ interests and needs. The main finding is that the engagement of women and the poor increased across sites with the shift from the status quo to adaptive collaborative governance, although not without challenges. The article explores interconnected factors underlying the changes, then considers these through the lens of the ‘‘three-gap analysis of effective participation.’’ This leads to specific insights concerning the conceptualization and strengthening of engagement in community forestry including the central roles of power and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-585
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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