Same Platform, Different Train
The Politics of Participation

Corner House Briefing 04

by Nicholas Hildyard, Pandurang Hegde, Paul Wolverkamp and Somersekhave Reddy

first published 3 March 1998


Popular movements seeking radical structural change have long called for the right to participate in the planning and implementation of development projects. Growing resistance has forced many development agencies to make their programmes more “participatory”. But “participation” can be little more than a means of engineering consent to programmes that have already been decided upon. Analysis of the UK-funded Western Ghats Forestry Project in India suggests that refraining from participating in such programmes may in some cases in fact be a better way for popular movements to achieve structural change.




It's raining, it's late, it's cold, the wind is blowing a gale, bits of rubbish are skitting up and down the all-but-deserted platform, and the loudspeaker is telling you for the umpteenth time that the train (crackle, crackle)... is ... (crackle) ... delayed (crackle). You get into conversation with the person re-reading for the umpteenth time an advertisement about discounted family outings to the seaside. Gradually it emerges that you have several things in common besides waiting for the late train. You're both from the North-East and you both left to take up jobs down South; you're both fed up with trains being late (it's the third time in as many days) -- but you'd both rather travel by train than by car because you're both worried about pollution, the greenhouse effect, the ozone hole, the "environment".

But as the conversation moves on, what you agree on begins to seem far less important than what you differ on. You're not convinced that privatising the railways will mean no more late trains. And, no, you don't agree that the greatest tragedy for the Third World was when "we" left. And, yes, you are serious when you say that it is consumers in the North and not babies in the South who are primarily responsible for global warming.

And then, finally, the train arrives. She opens the door for you, you get on -- but she stays on the platform. "Aren't you getting on?" you ask. "Oh, no. This isn't my train. I'm going in the opposite direction".

Conflicting Interests, Differing Perceptions

What divides is often as important, if not more so, than that which is held in common. Even words and concepts whose meaning is often assumed by their users to be "self-evident" may convey different meanings to different people at different times and in different places.

Take "forests" -- an apparently self-evident "natural" and universal category which, far from being an unproblematic "given", is actually a fiercely contested political space. For those who rely directly on them for their livelihoods, forests represent secure water supplies, fodder for animals, medicines for friends and family, home for local deities and shelter from army patrols, tax collectors or (for playful children) from adults.

But for many middle-ranking forest department officials, "forests" are defined instead by the information that passes across their desks: the latest scientific paper on planting regimes; budgets for planting; tenders for logging; catalogues advertising new logging equipment or the latest jeep; curriculum vitaes; training schemes and opportunities for promotion.

For logging company accountants, meanwhile, forests may be no more than board feet of timber; for many pharmaceutical researchers, however, they are pools of "biodiversity" from which to extract patented drugs; whilst for harried executives in polluting industries, they have become "sinks" to be created (or preserved) to offset carbon dioxide emissions.1

Degradation of the forests therefore has radically different meanings for different groups of people because of differing consequences -- inevitably giving rise to different approaches to tackling environmental degradation. The preferred response of many planners, politicians, development practitioners, civil servants and heads of industry lies in forms of management which are instrumental and (inevitably) top-down. Acting on "objective data", managers plan, mobilize and "clear space for action". People are "tapped", "mobilized", "brought out of traditional isolation", "empowered" or cajoled into "collaboration" so that they can carry out the managers' designs -- or they become "obstacles" to be removed. The management of people is justified in the name of environmental protection.

Meanwhile, the physical environment becomes a terrain to be reordered, zoned and parcelled up according to some preconceived Master Plan -- a notable example of which is the now notorious World Bank/FAO-sponsored Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP).2

By contrast, the demands from grassroots groups who rely on the forests for their livelihoods are for: local control over resources; the power to veto developments; agrarian reform; a decisive say in all matters that affect livelihoods; and a politics that is committed to unsettling inequitable power relationships at all levels of society -- not only between communities but also within them. For them, the question is not how their environment should be managed -- how to conserve the soil or what species of tree to plant, for instance -- but whose environment gets managed by whom in whose interest. The central demand made by group after group is for authority to be vested in the community -- not in the state, local government, the market or the local landlord. As such, the struggle is for more than the mere recognition of rights over the physical commons: it is also a struggle to restore or to defend the checks and balances that limit any one group wielding excessive power within the local community.

Participation in Context

Given such different responses to environmental degradation, it is not surprising that the growing enthusiasm amongst forestry departments the world over for "participatory" forms of forest management -- and for participatory approaches which stress "community-based resource management" -- arouse deep suspicions, even within those movements for whom participation and community control of forests are central demands.

One reason for such suspicion is that few of the institutions now pushing for "participation" -- a "warmly persuasive word" which seems "never to be used unfavourably"3 -- have a history of taking it seriously.

Consider, for example, the World Bank. Its forest policy states that the "Bank will stress new approaches to the management of protected areas that incorporate local people into protection, benefit sharing and planning and will highlight the need to consider the needs and welfare of forest-dwelling people."

This policy, according to an internal 1994 Implementation Review, has been successfully carried out by Bank staff. The Review states that the Bank has focused its assistance "on helping governments ... empower rural people to better conserve and manage all forests" and "incorporated into its work the need to involve stakeholders with interests in the forests."4

The reality on the ground, however, is very different. In a 1993 critique of the World Bank's record on participation, Larry Lohmann refers to the experience of some villagers in North-West Thailand, where the Bank was planning a major "conservation" project:

"I have in front of me hundreds of pages of a Pre-Investment Study for [the project]. These hundreds of pages are only part of the Study ... The project is slated for an area -- the Thung Yai-Huai Kha Khaeng sanctuaries -- inhabited by thousands of Karen people, who speak a language distinct from that of the Thai majority. The project calls for their eviction. Yet not one of these hundreds of pages of bureaucratic English has been translated in Thai, much less Karen: much less communicated to, much less discussed with, much less agreed to by the local Karen people in the sanctuary to be affected. This in spite of the fact that NGOs have requested Thai translations of all this material ... The task manager of the project perhaps provided some insight into this novel concept of 'participation' and 'empowerment' when he told a Thai audience that the eviction of the Karen people of Thung Yai-Huai Kha Khaeng -- a course of action which is, by the way, opposed by the [government] chief of the Thung Yai sanctuary himself -- would have to be carried out by means of 'the sword, the carrot and the stick'."5

Not surprisingly, when development agencies such as the World Bank begin to pursue participatory programmes, those who have had past experience of Bank projects tend to be wary. "Consultation" tend to be desultory; local people are heard, even listened to, but ultimately are there only because their involvement lends credibility and legitimacy to a project. Far from being a transformative process in which local people exert control over decision-making, "participation" becomes a well-honed tool for engineering consent to projects and programmes whose framework has already been determined in advance -- a means for top-down planning to be imposed from the bottom-up. As a minister in a recently "democratised" country commented on his ministry's use of participation: "We decide what is to be done and we tell the people to do it."6

Joint Forestry in India

Given this political context, many community groups see the new vogue among development agencies for forms of participatory development as attempts to undermine actively their efforts to reclaim control over the institutions, forests, fishing grounds, fields and rivers on which they rely for their livelihoods. The case of Joint Forest Management (JFM) is illustrative.

In India, JFM (and its more recent incarnation, JFPM -- Joint Forest Planning and Management) has played an increasingly central role in forestry projects and programmes since the late 1980s. Its adoption by both central and state governments followed widespread protests against both the degradation of forests as a result of industrial forestry and the exclusion of local people from forest resources. Under the promptings of agencies such as the World Bank, the Indian government initiated a series of social forestry programmes to meet local needs for firewood and other forest products through the active participation of villagers in plantation forestry. Far from defusing the protests, however, the widespread takeover of communal lands for commercial plantations (chiefly environmentally-damaging eucalyptus for the pulp and paper industry) rather than woodlots for villagers led to still further unrest, with villagers uprooting the eucalyptus.

The failure of social forestry prompted the government to revise its forest policy: it required forest departments to make commercial exploitation of forests secondary to forest management for environmental benefits and for meeting the subsistence needs of local people; it called for the protection of villagers' customary rights to the forests; and it advocated greater participation by local people in the protection and development of those forests from which they derived benefits, such as fuelwood, food and timber.7

In June 1990, the Ministry of the Environment in India proposed that usufruct rights to specified forest lands be granted to those village communities who formed themselves into appropriate village-based organisations with the specific task of regenerating degraded forests.8 The work undertaken, it was stressed, should be strictly supervised by the forest department, as should the villagers' access to forest products. NGOs, the Ministry's circular suggested, should be encouraged to play an intermediate role between the forest department and the villagers. Sixteen states have now made changes to state forestry laws to enable such "joint forest management" to be implemented.9

Yet while successful experiments in several local settings increased the openness of some states to adopting participatory approaches, other factors influenced the embracing of JFM by so many states, as Indian political commentator Dolly Arora points out:

"With powerful national or international NGOs entering the scene and extending support to local organizations of people to assert their rights on forest resources, the capacity of states to overlook the claims of people without worsening the crisis of their own legitimacy weakened considerably -- it seemed better to relate to the programme of these organizations than to alienate them."10

Significantly, in Orissa and West Bengal, the two states which led the way in adopting JFM, the promulgation of formal provisions for participation took place only after numerous village groups had already set up their own organizations to protect local forests. In effect, "people's participation and people's power preceded, rather than resulted from, policy change in these areas."11

The Western Ghats Forestry Project

In a number of states, JFM came to India not so much as a result of domestic institutions responding to popular pressure as from international agencies doing so. In the state of Karnataka, peoples' movements were extremely active throughout the 1980s (and, indeed, for decades beforehand) in defending and regenerating forests: resistance to social forestry programmes, funded by Britain's Overseas Development Administration (ODA), amongst others, was particularly widespread.

Whilst the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) all but ignored the national shift towards JFM, it did take the opportunity to cash in on national and international concerns over forest degradation by drawing up a funding proposal for an extensive tree planting programme in the Western Ghats area and submitting it to the Overseas Development Administration.

Entirely lacking from the proposal was any element of peoples' participation. Local people featured instead as a source of cheap labour for replanting schemes. Nonetheless, the ODA, eager to redress the failures of its previous social forestry project (and also, some have argued, because the British government had committed itself to spending £100 million on "international forest conservation" and was looking for "homes" for the money), agreed to consider the project -- provided peoples' participation and poverty alleviation were incorporated.

A series of workshops between the KFD and local NGOs followed, and the project was substantially modified, although NGOs still expressed considerable concern. In April 1991, a final project document was drawn up by the KFD incorporating "off-the-shelf" participation plans (largely based on proposals drawn up by UK forestry experts) that would bring Joint Forest Planning and Management to the Western Ghats. The UK government agreed to commit £24 million to the project which became the flagship of UK overseas development aid under the Conservative administrations of Margaret Thatcher and, later, John Major.

The stated aim of the Western Ghats Forestry Project is to enhance and improve the management capacity of the Karnataka State Forest Department (KFD), in particular, to enable it to respond to the conflicting demands from different users for access to the forest. Under the scheme, the forest has been divided into five zones:

  • Zone 1 -- ecologically important areas;
  • Zone 2 -- uninhabited forest areas with a potential for commercial exploitation;
  • Zone 3 -- areas with pockets of forest dwellers;
  • Zone 4 -- boundary-edge forests near settlements (mostly degraded land);
  • Zone 5 -- common land outside the forest.

Villagers are permitted to "participate" in the management only of those lands in Zone 4; in the other areas, they have no rights to participate in decisions affecting forest use.

Decided in Advance

Although NGOs played a key role in altering the project to incorporate greater involvement of villagers and a poverty-oriented focus, any modifications were simply tacked on to an existing framework. The project's goals had already been decided by the KFD and ODA; NGOs were consulted only on how those goals might best be implemented.

Had NGOs (let alone villagers) drawn up their own project -- rather than modify someone else's -- it might have taken a very different shape. Rather than seeking to conserve the forests by dividing them into zones and encouraging the planting of degraded land, for example, many villagers might have pressed for stiff career penalties -- and enforcement mechanisms -- to be introduced within the KFD against forestry officials who accept bribes for handing out logging concessions. They might have argued for money to be spent on elephant ditches and electric fences to safeguard crops from forest animals, thus increasing farm incomes and helping to overcome some of the hostility with which many farmers regard the forests. They might have demanded village roads to be upgraded (or built) in order to improve access to markets, or for mining activities within the forest to be halted, or for the ban on green felling to be effectively enforced. They might have pointed to local institutions that were already managing local commons or tending local sacred groves as better forums for managing the forests than the imposed Village Forest Committees.12 They might have pressed for land reform or measures to secure tenure for poorer villagers. They might have argued against planting as the best way of restoring degraded lands, pointing to the many instances in the region where unaided regeneration has proved highly effective without the need to fence off lands permanently against cattle, thus depriving villages of a source of grazing land. They might have warned that plantations would encourage the gradual commercialization of the forests to the detriment of poorer villagers, and they might have pressed for full legal control over much larger areas of forests than just Zone 4.

Problematic Village Forest Committees

Not surprisingly, many of the problems which NGOs warned of have arisen. The Village Forest Committees, for example, have proved highly problematic. Villagers are encouraged to form Village Forest Committee (VFCs) with responsibility for conserving and restoring specified areas of forest and sharing the benefits (sales of timber from plantations, for example) with the forest department. Any change of access or use which has an impact on local communities should be arrived at through consultation. In many cases, however, the KFD proceeded with plantations even though no VFC had been formed. As Patricia Feeney of Oxfam UK reports:

"Although public meetings were held ... to tell the local community about the project and to listen nominally to their suggestions about planting, nurseries had already been raised and pits dug before any consultation occurred. Planting was pre-determined by the KFD."13

Where VFCs were formed, the meetings were often held at short notice at the convenience of the KFD, officials of which kept the minutes of meetings held and managed the funds, leading to suspicions that the VFCs were little more than outreach arms of the KFD set up solely to satisfy the ODA's conditions of funding.

Although VFCs are supposed to ensure the participation of all sections of the village in deciding planting regimes, many are dominated by more powerful social groups within a village and by men. In half the villages where VFCs had been formed by 1997, for example, many households are not members. In the majority of these cases, the non-members tend to be from the poorest families in the village. Moreover, as Feeney notes:

"Those villagers who become members acquire the responsibility and authority to compel the non-members to confirm to the VFC's decisions regarding areas of forest to be protected and to respect new rules about access to and use of forest produce. This can have a dramatic impact on the rights of the poorest villagers to collect non-timber forest products on a day-to-day basis to meet their subsistence needs ... Denial of such rights has serious equity implications and may become a future source of conflict."14

In effect, the VFCs directly or indirectly re-order access to and rights over the environment, generally (though not exclusively) in favour of the landed elites who dominate the VFCs, even in villages which have full membership.15

One reason for the dominance of elites on the VFCs is the "old boy network" that the KFD brings into play when initiating new VFCs. Generally, forest officers tend to contact those whom they consider to be the most important people in the village -- who also happen, in many cases, to be those with whom they have had previous contact: a forest contractor, a former KFD official, a relative of such a contact. Usually, it is these villagers who end up being the president of the VFC or becoming its members.

Understandably, many other villagers are suspicious of the VFCs' impartiality. A recent Oxfam appraisal of the project quotes a villager from Honnavar:

"What difference does this JFPM make? Our president has worked in the KFD for many years. Do you think he is any different from them? They suggested his name as the president. And we had to agree. It's not that they forced us, but you know what will happen if we don't agree to what the KFD says. We have to live in this village for the rest of our lives."16

Marginalising Women

The voices of many women, in particular lower caste women, have been marginalised by the project, despite efforts by the ODA to include them. Originally, the KFD prescribed one representative per household to the VFC which "had the effect of systematically excluding women from the VFCs and from active participation in JFPM."17 At the insistence of the ODA, the forest department's rules were amended to make "spouses" automatic members of VFCs. Even so, this still leaves many marginalised women (and men) within households excluded -- for example, single women, women whose husbands have left them, second wives and widows.

Almost five years after the start of the project, many women remain unaware of the existence of VFCs, let alone their intention. The ODA has now insisted that VFC management committees include at least two women, but the places often go to higher caste women who generally have little or no contact with poor and landless women.

Where women do attend the VFC meetings, they generally "sit quietly and serve tea and snacks", whilst some "fail to attend VFC meetings altogether because there is no discussion of problems affecting them."18

Even where such discussion does take place, the voices of women are frequently ignored. In one village, for example, women complained that the scarcity of fuelwood meant that they had to spend up to three hours a day collecting a headload of leaves and twigs for cooking fuel. Only six of the 97 VFC members in the village are women, however, "so there was little objection when the VFC decided to sell off all the firewood from their 30 hectare JFPM plantation instead of using it to meet local consumption needs."19

In such circumstances, women often have no option but to violate the rules of the VFC. "When this happens", reports Mariette Correa in a study commissioned for the India Development Service, "they are considered offenders liable for fines and are beaten by their husbands."20 Indeed, Correa argues, far from improving the position of women, the project may, in important respects, have undermined it:

"Earlier, when forest management was under the control of the forest department, women offenders at least had the support of the men in their families. Now the policing role of the government has been taken on at village level by male-dominated VFCs and may have succeeded in further exacerbating gender inequalities within the household."21

Some NGOs have responded by creating all women VFCs, which have, to a considerable degree, managed to overcome the silencing of women's voices.

Disempowering the Already Marginalised

Although the Western Ghats project was intended to ensure that poorer people, women, tribals and other disadvantaged groups who are dependent on the forest "are not worse and preferably better off", it has in many cases caused considerable hardship to local villagers. The ODA-funded plantations have been mainly on village commons from which villagers (particularly poorer villagers) derive pasture for animals, fuel, manure, medicinal plants and other products to fulfil their basic needs. Women now need to travel longer distances to obtain firewood which, increasingly, they must take from forest lands. The result is often further forest destruction.

The project has brought particular problems for poorer groups who rely on herding or raising cattle because of the decline in grazing land. According to one study undertaken for the ODA, some 86 per cent of landless livestock keepers rely on the forests for grazing: many have now been forced to reduce their livestock holdings, often placing their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Under the Western Ghats Forestry Project, gaps in the forest are to be planted with "valuable timber species", with the aim of restoring the natural mix of the forest. Yet a recent study by one local NGO reveals that, in the majority of the villages surveyed, such gaps had been planted with Acacia auriculiformis (an exotic originally imported from Australia); in some cases, 90 per cent of the trees planted were acacia. Villagers have repeatedly asked for fewer acacia to be planted. NGOs had warned that, despite a commitment to allow villagers to plant trees of their choice, the project would encourage the further conversion of natural forest to monoculture plantations.

In some villagers, landless families who have encroached on common land for lack of anywhere else to grow food have been evicted to make way for the plantations, depriving them of their livelihood, without any compensation. Such evictions are the most visible examples of how the project has undermined the security of poorer villagers. An ODA-sponsored Independent Review of the project, carried out in 1997 in response to NGO lobbying, stressed that "in some villages" the project and "the current implementation of JFPM are subtly but systematically further disempowering the already marginalised and resource poor" through "the more invisible and subtle processes of exclusion, delegitimisation of their traditional resource use patterns [and] use of monetary and wage incentives from plantations."22

The irony is that village-based forest management institutions have long existed Karnataka, as elsewhere in India. If they are no longer effective, it is in no small part a result of policies implemented in the past by the Karnataka Forest Department.23 The VFCs now being imposed under the Western Ghats project re-establish nominal committees, but real control over the forest in many instances still remains in the hands of the Department.

Power and Participation

The Western Ghats project illustrates that "participation" which fails to engage with the distribution and operations of power within local communities and the wider society in which they live is likely to offer little to marginalised groups.

Many participatory projects rest on the dubious assumption that simply identifying different "stakeholders" and getting them around the table will result in a consensus being reached that is "fair" to all. Such an assumption holds, however, only if all the actors involved are deemed to have equal bargaining power (which they do not) or if the inequalities between stakeholders are viewed as a purely technical matter, the only challenge being to ensure that correct procedures are formulated for bringing the parties into contact, changing the behaviour and attitudes of those who are used to dominating, and giving "primary stakeholders" more of a chance to voice their view of the world.24

Facilitating measures may be important in negotiations, but they are not enough to grant marginal groups the bargaining power they require to overcome the structural dominance enjoyed by more powerful groups. On this view, participation requires wider processes of social transformation and structural change to the system of social relations through which inequalities are reproduced. Behavioural changes, though necessary, are not enough.

Talking Truth to Power

Addressing the structural causes of inequality not only demands policy changes -- for example, agrarian reform -- but rethinking the means by which such change is achieved. Many NGOs, for example, are drawn to participate in projects whose framework neither they nor the communities with whom they work have any substantive role in designing, because their conception of power -- something which a small minority (the "powerful") "have" and that others (the "powerless") "lack" -- suggests that participation in such projects is one of the few ways they will exert influence.

Herein lies a great irony. For the "have/lack" picture of power is one to which the "powerful" have never subscribed. Industry and governments, for example, reveal a persistent and pragmatic preoccupation with grassroots resistance and the opinions of ordinary people. While they are also concerned to win over members of the public, fear of the irate crowd is never far from its collective mind. Never taking its power for granted, the last thing that it assumes is that the rest of us are "powerless". On the contrary, it is acutely aware of having to act against a constant background of opposition and of the need to manage that opposition.

Embracing projects simply because they are there, or because an involvement offers the opportunity to put one's case to those "in power", may therefore be misguided. Rather than participating in projects which fail to reflect the political demands of marginalised groups, a better route to genuine structural change may well be to eschew involvement in them.

Working on One's Own Terms

This is not an argument for non-engagement: rather, it is an argument for other forms of engagement -- an engagement that learns from the successes of those movements at the grassroots which, historically, have been most effective in forcing political change. Rather than participating in alliances and programmes that have been mapped out by institutions with little or no commitment to structural change, NGOs and others, whose co-operation such agencies need if their projects are to be implemented, might be better off forming alliances with those whose politics they share. Such alliances might well include sympathetic individuals within government departments and industry, just as they may include a wide range of other NGOs. Critically, however, it is their own agenda that such alliances seek to press rather than someone else's.

Such a view argues for NGOs and others to take a more political-committed approach to participatory projects -- and to press donors and governments to do likewise. If international and national development agencies are serious about addressing issues of equity, sustainability and poverty reduction, they should give primacy to the needs and political demands of marginalised and oppressed groups. Not only may this require them to take measures that actively disempower dominant groups (for example, through implementing agrarian reform or, as in the Western Ghats project, promoting women-only VFCs); it may also call for funds and other forms of support to be offered in the spirit of active solidarity -- not in order to co-opt stakeholders to a preconceived agenda or with a view to empowering from outside.

Perhaps the first step that agencies which are serious about participation might take is not to reach for the latest handbook on participatory techniques, but instead to put their own house in order: to consider how their own internal hierarchies, training techniques and office cultures discourage the receptivity, flexibility, patience, open-mindedness, non-defensiveness, humour, curiosity and respect for the opinions of others that active solidarity demands. Diktat and PR techniques may "get things done" -- but they inevitably end up reinforcing the problem that, in theory, the done things are intending to solve.

Different train -- and probably different platform.

Box 1: Divide and Rule

Participatory approaches are promoted in many strategy documents prepared for companies by PR firms because direct contact with opponents allows the opportunity to bring other strategies into play, particularly those of cultivating opponents so as to divide and rule.

The US public relations firm, Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin, for example, divides opponents into four categories: "opportunists", "idealists", "realists" and "radicals".

"Opportunists" are seen as relatively easy to deal with. All that is needed is to give them "the perception of a partial victory" so that it looks good on their CVs.

"Idealists" are harder. They want to change the world. So the tactic is to cast doubt on the ethics of their position. They can then be "educated" into a more "realistic" position.

The so-called "realists", meanwhile, are seen as a piece of cake. They should "always receive the highest priority in any strategy dealing with a public policy issue." Often inexperienced in the workings of power, they are particularly susceptible to industry's claim to be the "only show in town". For them the "real world" is the corporate world. They are already primed for what they see and the inevitable "trade off".

The hardest group -- and the one which industry is most fearful of -- is the "radicals". Their belief that "individuals and local groups should have direct power over industry" makes it "impossible to predict with any certainty what standards will be deemed acceptable."

The strategy is to isolate the radical, cultivate and educate the idealists into becoming realists, and co-opt the realists into agreeing with what industry had already decided, leaving the radicals isolated.

Source: Stauber, J. & Rampton, S., Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, Common Courage Press, Maine, USA, 1995.

Notes and References

1 Even within the deceptively homogeneous settings of a village, forest department or company boardroom, "forests" may have different meanings. The senior forest official will have a different view to the forest guard; the rich landowner to the landless labourer; women to men; the bushmeat hunter to the farmer whose land borders the forest and whose crops are menaced by its wild animals; and so on.

2 Launched in the late 1980s, the Tropical Forestry Action Plan was described as a "Marshall Plan for the forests" of over 80 countries. The project was vigorously opposed by many environmental and development groups, both North and South. Opposition to the project eventually led to it being reformulated and to the inclusion of mechanisms aimed at making it more democratic, transparent and accountable to local people. At this point, donor support for the project evaporated.

3 Williams, R., Keywords, Fontana, London, 1976, p.76.

4 World Bank, Forest Policy Implementation Review, World Bank, Washington DC, 1994.

5 Lohmann, L., "Incentives and Disincentives for Bank Staff and Other Institutional Matters", Presentation at Consultation on the World Bank Forest Policy Implementation Review, London, May 1994. Of the failure to translate the project documents, Lohmann makes some further comments for the benefit of Westerners: "Let's put this in persepctive. Imagine that a government official arrives at your house and announces that certain modifications are going to have to be made in its structure which will make it impossible for you to live there. He hastens to add that you are encouraged to participate in this renovation, and explains that you are free to ask for the documents which describe in detail what is to be done. Unfortunately, however, these documents are in Chinese. He is sorry about this, but the fact is that he has insufficient staff to translate them for you right now. He invites you to sympathize with his plight. The bright spot is that the documents, for those who can read them, describe how you will be "empowered" in a way which will enable you to seek a better life once you have been moved out of your house."

6 Peters, P., "Who's Local Here? The Politics of Participation in Development", Cutural Survival Quarterly, Fall 1997.

7 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

8 Arora, D.,"From State Regulation to people's Participation: The Case of Forest Management in India", Economic and Political Weekly, 19 March 1994.

9 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

10 Arora, D.,"From State Regulation to people's Participation: The Case of Forest Management in India", Economic and Political Weekly, 19 March 1994.

11 Arora, D.,"From State Regulation to people's Participation: The Case of Forest Management in India", Economic and Political Weekly, 19 March 1994.

12 The forest management system evolved by villagers in Halikar, on the coast of Karnataka, is a case in point. The village's forests are run by a Village Forest Committee, originally set up in 1924 after villagers took advantage of legislation passed by the British, is constituted by villagers, who are elected to represent their own castes. Many of the rules laid down by the original committee still hold. However, reflecting the responsiveness of commons-based regimes to changing circumstances, many rules have been relaxed or tightened as new threats to the forest have emerged and others receded. The grazing of cattle in the forests is one area where stricter regulations have been introduced.

13 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

14 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

15 Saxena, N.C., Sarin, M., Singh, R.V.,Shah, T., "Western Ghats Forestry Project: Independent Study of Implementation Experience in Kanara Circle", May 1997.

16 Mitra, A., "Oxfam JFPM Support Project Uttara Kannada: An Evaluation of First Phase Work", Oxfam (India) Trust, New Delhi, February 1997.

17 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

18 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

19 Feeney, T., "Gender, Equity and Exclusion: From the Western Ghats to Kibale Forests" (forthcoming) 1997.

20 Correa, M., "Gender and Joint Forest Planning and Management: A Research Study in Uttara Kannada District, Karnataka", India Development Service, Dharward, 1995.

21 Correa, M., "Gender and Joint Forest Planning and Management: A Research Study in Uttara Kannada District, Karnataka", India Development Service, Dharward, 1995.

22 Saxena, N.C., Sarin, M., Singh, R.V.,Shah, T., "Western Ghats Forestry Project: Independent Study of Implementation Experience in Kanara Circle", May 1997.

23 Under the 1924 Forest Act, for example, the then colonial government laid down that communities should be entrusted with the management of forests immediately adjacent to local villages, many of which established village committees for this purpose. In 1979, however, the District Commissioner of Karnataka passed an order requiring village forest committees to hand over their forests to the Forest Department. In most cases, this went unchallenged. However, three villages successfully challenged the ruling in the High Court and, to this day, retain control over their immediate forest base which they managed according to their own priorities and customs.

24 Nelson, N., and Wright, S., "Introduction" in Nelson, N., and Wright, S., (eds.), Power and Participatory Development, Intermediate Technology Publications, London, 1995, p.6.

End Note

This briefing is an edited extract of a 32-page report, Same Platform, Different Train: Pluralism, Participation and Power, by Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House, UK; Pandurang Hegde, Chipko Appiko, India; Paul Wolverkamp, Both Ends, The Netherlands; and Somersekhave Reddy, Indian Institute of Management, India.