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Property Rights and Natural Resources, Nepal

Property Rights And Natural Resources: Socio-Economic Heterogeneity Distributional Implications of Common Property Resource Management in Nepal

Bhim Adhikari (2001)

This study deals with local level economic consequences of common property resource (CPR) institution in the context of community-based forest management in Nepal. Development of the local economy while managing common property resources has emerged as the top resource management policy in Nepal in the past few years. This initiative has emerged largely due to a strong disillusionment with the performance of the centralized management policy in providing sufficient incentives for the resource users to manage local resources on a sustainable basis.


The past decade has witnessed an increasing emphasis on community-based forest management and the handing over of national forests to the local community with a focus on poverty alleviation. Although local control over natural resources is now regarded as a win-win solution for government, local people and the environment, the empirical evidence regarding the impact of CPR institutions and thus local level economic consequences of community-based forest management is rather thin.

Current debates on community forestry in Nepal concern:

  • What makes the system of community-based forest management successful in sustaining the resource and distributing its products?
  • What are the local economic consequences of CPR management institutions?
  • What are the determinants of household level income from CPR?
  • How do the community-based property rights over forests affect the livelihood strategies of the poor?
Though there is some empirical literature that describes household labour allocation in household production framework, none of these studies examine the possible relationship between household socio-economic variables and labour allocation decisions for extraction and gathering activities.

More precisely, determinants of labour allocation and forest product consumption decisionsof rural households, particularly those participating in some form of collective action, have not been systematically examined. In this project we will show the peculiar link between socio-economic attributes of household and labour allocation decisions for gathering activities in common property forestry. We will examine the relationship between four major types of biomass;fuel wood, tree and grass fodder, and other leafy biomass (leaf litter); and a reduced set of household characteristics in order to test the validity of this hypothesis.

A significant component of mainstream CPR literature claims that CPR appropriators can create and sustain local management institutions that ensure equitable access to, and income from, CPR management. This literature further claims that since poor people are heavily dependent on natural resources, they derive higher income from CPR as compared to non-poor households.

However, on the other hand some scholars argue that compared to non-poor, poorer households may depend more on common property resources, but in the absolute term their dependency is lower (Dasgupta, 1993; Heltberg, 2001). In this connection, it is argued that poorer households are currently benefiting less from community-based forest management than relatively better off households.

Wealth inequality among resource users affects the leadership quality of HH as well as the extent of resource exploitation and appropriation, which determine the size of the private benefit from the collective action. This implies that household level benefits from community forests are associated with the socio-economic characteristics of households such as land and livestock holdings, caste, gender, education, ethnicity and other local differences.

This study, therefore, aims to explore how socio-economic heterogeneity of resource users in common property resource management influences the efficiency of resource use, equity of resource distribution, and welfare of community members.

In this research project, we seek to provide answers to the following question:

What are the socio-economic attributes of household that determine labour allocation decisions for forest product collection and gathering activities?

Here, our working hypothesis is that demand for forest products is a function of a number of characteristics that provide a measure of household dependency on the local commons and that Biomass use is directly related to human or livestock population (Reddy et al., 1986) or agricultural assets of households drive biomass use (Nadkarni et al., 1989).

In line with recent CPR literature (Lele, 1997; Campbell et al., 2001), I hypothesise that demand for forest biomass is primarily a function of

a) cultivated land holdings and crop types (driving demand for mulch and manure)
b) livestock assets (driving demand for fodder and cut grass)
c) the number of people in the household (proxy for both fuel wood production and consumption)
d) education, ethnicity and caste of household (caste of an individual influences cultural attitudes towards food, bathing and rituals which might drive demand for fuel wood), and
e) distance between forest and house (determine relative control as well as household behaviour regarding unauthorised harvesting).

We further hypothesise that the use of the grass and leafybiomass available to the household would depend upon :
(a) its direct ownership of cultivated lands
(b) ownership of cattle, and
(c) household demographic characteristics.

In this study I advance this argument by formally modelling thehousehold production system to explore this relationship. An understanding of these relationships within community-based forest management can help provide the necessary leverage forpoor forest-dependent communities so that their interests are fairly represented in forest planning and management decisions. The study will recommend future policy that could facilitate and promote efficient and equitable resource management regimes where forest-based livelihoods are pervasive features of the rural economy.





This poster was originally presented as part of the CPR workshop on Developing Management strategies that can benefit the poor, funded by UK Department for International Development (DFID).

This work is funded by:

Last Updated: 18 December 2018