Forest places, political spaces : the social implications of community forestry in Nepal
Tarnowski, Christopher Blair
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This dissertation examines a number of overlapping social and political implications associated with the implementation of Nepal’s Community Forestry Program. Based on several of the broad concerns of a post-structural political ecology, and inspired by the work of Foucault, Escobar, Ferguson, Scott, and others, this study combines an examination of the policies and practices of the state, development and forest management with the myriad ways in which villagers adopt, embrace, manipulate, redefine, and/or reconfigure community forestry as it is put into practice at the local level. The study is divided into two sections. The chapters of the first section explore the histories associated with the emergence and growth of the Nepal state, the expansion of development, and the changes in forest policy culminating in the current policy and practices associated with community forestry. Community forestry policy is seen to represent the devolution or ‘decentralization’ of management control to local communities. Through an examination of the practices associated with community forest management, this section argues, however, that contrary to claims of ‘decentralizing’ control, forest resources and the rural population are subject to an expanding apparatus of ‘governmental’ control. The second section of this study is based on fieldwork conducted among three user groups in a single ‘village’ setting, and situates local management practices within the context of an expanding state and the proliferation of numerous development imperatives. The chapters of this section highlight several aspects of social difference - caste and ethnic group membership, gender, wealth, education - that have salience for the outcome(s) associated with community forestry as put into practice. Despite a diverse set of objectives to foster ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’ of women, poor and other disadvantaged ‘community’ members, to promote ‘democracy,’ and simultaneously ‘depoliticize’ community forestry, this study suggests that the community forestry program has instead opened a new political space within which local economic and political elite are able to expand their power and authority over forest management and local community development within the village.