Environment, Development and Sustainability

, 9:465

First online:

Barriers Beyond the Partners: Bureaucratic and Political Constraints to Implementing Joint Forest Management in Tamil Nadu, India

  • Jagannadha Rao MattaAffiliated withSchool of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida Email author 
  • , John KerrAffiliated withDepartment of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Michigan State University

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Whereas past research has treated co-management of common pool resources as if villagers and project implementing authorities were the only relevant actors, numerous external factors beyond the control of these two partners create barriers to successful co-management. This paper draws on discussions with Forest Department officials to examine the influence of these forces on the outcomes of Joint Forest Management (JFM) in Tamil Nadu, India. An empirical inquiry into the operational aspects of JFM indicates the important roles of political parties, powerful people, and other state institutions and functionaries as well as the flow of foreign funding. Further, the strong demand by local people for socio-economic development interventions as opposed to improvement of degraded forests belittles the role of the Forest Department relative to other departments. Numerous other conditioning factors and relationships are explored. The authors call for reforms in public governance to allow better participation of all the actors involved for this participatory management approach to succeed and sustain.


decentralization and development participatory forest management political functionaries public governance sustainability