ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Can Communities Plan, Grow and Sustainably Harvest from Forests?

Extensive experimental research has been devoted to the study of behaviour related to public goods, common-pool resources and other social dilemmas. In a majority of these studies, it is found that subjects tend to cooperate if they are allowed to communicate and make their own rules of use. In the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, a number of questions are being raised at public forums. Are communities capable of managing a valuable resource like a forest? Will transfer of authority not result in large-scale deforestation? Are traditional norms of sustainable harvesting still effective even after increased access to markets and commercialisation? This paper reports on the findings of four field experiments that evolved in the course of a study conducted in two indigenous communities in Maharashtra. Both of the communities have had past traditions of shared norms and mutual trust, and their behaviour in the experiments shows that the communities still tend to be non-exploitative, non-commercial, and cooperative for prioritising, planning, and managing resource sustainably.

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