Institutional Resilience of Community-based Conservation to the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal
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To explore the institutional resilience of community-based conservation, I undertook empirical research in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Nepal, a protected area managed by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) and local communities organized into 56 Conservation Area Management Committees (CAMCs). I conducted scripted interviews with 212 members of 30 representative CAMCs, 13 ACAP staff members who closely monitor those CAMCs, and 868 local villagers who are the beneficiaries of the conservation programs. The field research was undertaken during the summer of 2007 and fall of 2008. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed. I estimated capital stocks and assessed the organizational resilience of each CAMC during and following the Maoist insurgency. I used confirmatory factor analysis to develop scales for measuring the two theoretical constructs of legitimacy and institutional resilience, the latter of which refers to the overall system of community-based conservation in the area. I used the adaptive cycle framework of growth, maturation, collapse and reorganization to assess changes in structures and processes and to explore the past, present and possible future trends in ACA. Villagers largely considered the CAMCs as legitimate institutions, and their executive members as trustworthy. CAMC members understood the organizational mission and were confident about assuming greater management responsibility of the area in the near future. Human and social capital stocks were positively related to the resilience of the CAMCs. Particularly, themes of intra-committee trust, help networks, and the duration of membersâ tenure on the committees were important. Furthermore, natural capital stocks showed a parabolic relationship with organizational resilience; the most resilient CAMCs had moderate amounts of natural capital under their jurisdictions. The scales used to measure legitimacy and institutional resilience were reliable, and showed a significant positive correlation with each other. Five variables significantly predicted the villagersâ perceptions of legitimacy: performance assessments of CAMCs, social norms as measured by perceptions of peersâ attitudes towards CAMCs, empowerment as measured by villagersâ perceptions of their influence in the CAMCsâ decision making processes, perceived benefits and costs associated with having the CAMC in a village, and reported levels of personal participation in CAMCsâ activities. The conservation institution appeared to have been resilient to the insurgency, as the system maintained its identity throughout, avoided alternative undesirable states, and entered into the reorganization phase following collapse. All forms of capital and institutional performance decreased to some extent during collapse but institutional memory, available capital and some structural changes facilitated reorganization. The institutional system is reorganizing along the original regime, but it has also developed an alternative pathway of a new governance model for the area that will transform the present regime in the near term.
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