The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 179–194

Social Inequality, Local Leadership and Collective Action: An Empirical Study of Forest Commons

Original Article


Previous research has identified a range of variables conducive to the self-organization of user groups for participatory resource management, including the physical and technical attributes of the resource, the characteristics of user groups and the nature of institutional arrangements. This paper focuses on household characteristics such as caste and income, and analyzes their impact on the probability of membership in the decision-making unit of local forest management institutions, drawing on primary data from a survey of eight community forest user groups in the mid-hills of Nepal. It shows in particular that members of households belonging to lower-caste groups have a lower probability of being elected as members of the executive committee of user groups. The participation of such households in village meetings, however, also increases the probability of membership within the executive decision-making unit, suggesting that household participation can help to achieve fairer forms of village-level collective action.

La recherche sur les groupes participatifs de gestion des ressources a identifié un large éventail de variables favorisant leur émergence, y compris les attributs physiques et techniques des ressources en question, les caractéristiques des membres utilisateurs, ainsi que la nature des arrangements institutionnels. Cet article se focalise sur certaines caractéristiques des ménages dont sont issus les membres utilisateurs de ces groupes, telles que la caste et le revenu, et analyse leur impact sur la probabilité d’adhésion à l’organe exécutif de groupes locaux de gestion de ressources forestière, en se basant sur des données primaires tirées d’un recensement de huit groupes dans des communautés de la zone des collines du Népal. Il est démontré que les membres de ménages appartenant aux groupes de caste inférieure ont une probabilité moindre d’être élu au comité de direction. Cependant, la simple participation de ces ménages aux réunions de leur groupe augmente la probabilité d’adhésion d’un de leur membre à l’organe exécutif, suggérant que la participation elle-même peut intrinsèquement promouvoir des formes d’action collective plus justes au niveau local.


community forest caste decision-making local leadership social exclusion collective action 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
  2. 2.London School of Economics and University of Kent

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