20 June 2016

Policy brief: Case studies of natural resource access in Jharkhand, India: Implications for 'democratic' decentralisation


This news is redirected by The Secretariat for Development Cooperation at SCIENCE from the Copenhagen Centre for Development Research.

Author: Siddharth Sareen from the department of Food and Resource Economics.


Many developing countries have undertaken attempts at democratic decentralisation of their natural resources sectors. These reforms affect local residents’ access to natural resources, promising to devolve power and control over these to local institutions. The extent of decentralisation shapes the nature of access and the kind of local governance taking place, both crucial issues in a developing country context of relatively unstable politics, overlapping policies, and marginalised population groups relying on natural resources. Moreover, the ability of local residents to benefit from natural resources, which has been termed ‘access’ by Ribot & Peluso (2003), is also shaped by factors other than decentralisation policy.

This policy brief illustrates that decentralisation can only effectively support residents’ access to natural resources if it both resolves policy overlaps at multiple levels to bring about inclusive and equitable access and aligns policies with ground realities for specific natural resources.

This brief is based on research situated in the Indian state of Jharkhand with case studies of natural resource access in four village communities in the Sadar Chaibasa forest division, each comprising approximately 100 households spread across two to three hamlets. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with residents including loggers, field observations, and key informant interviews with non-wood forest product (NWFP) traders, local councillors, sub-district-level bureaucrats, village chiefs, local NGO staff and regional researchers.

The focus is on three important resources with diverse supply chains: (i) kendu leaves (Diospyros melanoxylon), the only nationalised NWFP whose trade is governmentally regulated in practice (Suykens 2010); (ii) mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers, whose collection for sale is most widespread, with 97.2 % village households collecting them (Singh & Quli 2011); and (iii) wood, which is illegal to log but whose sale makes the highest contribution to household incomes (Jewitt 2008).

Find the full policy brief here and an overview of published policy briefs by the CCDR here.