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Management of Natural Resources through Co-Operative Action: A Case Study of Village Development Society in Gujarat, India Nimisha Shukla Paper presented.

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Presentation on theme: "Management of Natural Resources through Co-Operative Action: A Case Study of Village Development Society in Gujarat, India Nimisha Shukla Paper presented."— Presentation transcript:

1 Management of Natural Resources through Co-Operative Action: A Case Study of Village Development Society in Gujarat, India Nimisha Shukla Paper presented at the Third Asia-Pacific Co-Operative Research Conference. Chaingmai, Thailand 30 November – 2004. ‘There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for anyone’s greed.’ -Mahatma Gandhi

2 I Introduction Poverty alleviation and rural development is the current development theme in many developing countries including India. The Green revolution strategy followed by the government in the planning era in India has left sufficient scars on the face of the earth in terms overexploitation of ground water resources, land degradation and pressure on forests and common property resources especially in the arid and semi arid regions. Even in hilly terrains of humid regions the phenomenon of resource degradation due to agricultural and development planning strategies are now known. It was expected that the development strategies would substantially reduce the poverty in the rural areas and also the efforts will be able to lead to reduction in pressure on distressed migration to the urban areas. In fact, the poverty has deepened in some areas and many scholars have brought up the issue of nexus between poverty and natural resource degradation.The issue is how would the societies come out of this ‘lose -lose’ situation. Are there any efforts that are worthwhile examining and emulating for restoration of both the livelihood of the poor and the conservation of the environment? What are roles of community and other institutions some of which have strong historical antecedents in conserving and managing the natural resources?

3 IIntroduction Cooperation and collective action has been one of the major strategies in conserving and managing land, water and community and common property resources including forests. The base was so strong and traditions were so well grounded that in the post independence India cooperative effort for rural development was used as a dominant strategy. India has had an impressive track record on the cooperative efforts to undertake economic development. The Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) is the world level great success story and agriculture credit has also been channelised mainly through the village level primary cooperative society with limited success. There is a need, however, to learn from these experiments and make fresh efforts to revitalise the cooperative institutions because privatisation and individual management of some these resources are not going to yield to optimum and sustainable use. Without the cooperation value rejuvenation of lost communal and community resources appear difficult. Recent voluntary initiatives in rural development in India in general and in Gujarat in particular have shown the way in this direction. The present paper tries to document one such experiment. The present short review suggests that for sustainable management of natural resources, collective action appears imperative. In this regards, we propose to study the one of many activities taken up by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme - India (AKRSP (I)) for NRM. The activity we propose to examine is the working of the Gram Vikas Mandals (GVMs).

4 II. Rationale for Co-Operative Action As majority of natural resources rest in the domain of Common Property Resources (CPRs), even de-facto, if not de-jury ‘, the problem of their management gets special attention. The term CPR is defined as a natural or man-made resource system with the characteristics of excludability and rivalry (Gibbs and Bromley, 1989). Under these circumstances, collective management of CPRs becomes very important management question. One of the major issues in management of CPRs is free riding tendency. Free riding tendency is associated with utilising the resource without contributing anything for its sustainable management. The prevalence of such tendency would result into exploitation of resource without any accountability. Hence, the issue becomes deciding the ideal institutional arrangement to curb and/or to minimise the free riding tendency. Institutional arrangements are defined as the rules and conventions that establish peoples’ relationships to resources, translating interests into claims and claims into property rights. These relationships affect resource use pattern to a significant extent. By the criteria of efficiency, equity, resilience and sustainability, the institutional performance of each institution can be appraised.

5 Indian Scenario In Indian context, the threat of overexploitation of natural resources has existed for long. During the British rule of two centuries, India’s CPRs were appropriated, either by force or by lease, for the selfish motives of wealth creation for the British Empire. After Independence, for achieving faster economic growth, the economic policies pursued by the government have little or no impact on the development of natural resource base of the country. The forest cover was lost significantly; it is only in the recent past that it has been marginally recovered. There is a decline in the size and status of common land resources due to industrialisation and encroachment. The water situation is very grim too. It becomes very important to rethink the policy prescription for management of these resources. What has worked or has not worked and why so? How can the worked ones be replicated? In India, as in other developing countries, the government has primarily sponsored cooperative system. The cooperative movement began with the Indian Cooperative Credit Societies Act. But the cooperatives for Natural Resource Management (NRM) are of recent origin. Land and forest resource, irrigation and fisheries have management practices that are cooperative in arrangement. The formal management structures may not be like textbook cooperatives, but draw more from collective action models. What is important and relevant is that the basic spirit is of cooperation. Hence, the focus is on participatory management by the stakeholders.

6 III Aga Khan Rural Support Programme - India AKRSP (I) Mission Statement: AKRSP (I) exists to enable the empowerment of rural communities and groups, particularly the underprivileged and women, to take control over their lives and manage their environment, to create a better and more equitable society. (AKRSP Annual Report, 2003) Improvement in the quality of life is possible through sustainable development of natural resources and at the same time human resources have to be developed to manage and sustain natural resources. The approach has been resource and people centric. The community participation in planning and implementing any project for natural resource management has higher probability to succeed.

7 The Programmes 1. Enhancing agricultural productivity and income Private Land Development Water Management Micro finance and Agricultural Marketing 2. Common Land Development and Management Watershed Development/ Fodder Development Joint Forest Management 3. Enhancing income from off farm activities 4. Drudgery reduction 5. Outreach Programme Areas AKRSP (I) is currently active in four distinct environmentally challenged and economically vulnerable regions of Gujarat state. They are Bharuch, Surat and Narmada districts of South Gujarat Junagadh and Surendranagar districts of Saurashtra Kutch district

8 IVGram Vikas Mandals (GVMs) The GVMs or Village Development Groups have been established for the common development concerns of village community. They are, in fact, the User Group Village Institutions. In fact, they have become a broad based village organisation where anybody could become a member, with the focus on managing the natural resource management (NRM). The structure of Gram Vikas Mandal consisted of nominated president, a management committee and a paid secretary, whose salary was initially subsidized by AKRSP (I) and subsequently by the GVM.

9 Issues faced by the GVMs Politicisation: Without any legislative support, the effectiveness of the Mandal may be adversely affected. Probability of highjacking the Mandal for political gains cannot be ruled out. Inequity: Even though ideologically, the GVMs represent the common concerns of the entire village, the structure of GVM itself would lead to inequity since it has more or less user group approach. The activities became confined for that group of population that had access and/or control on natural resources. Landless labourers and women are generally excluded in the process. Accountability: With politicisation and inequitable structure, the GVMs would not represent the entire population. Hence it may not necessarily accountable to the village society. Low Standards: GVMs are often termed as ‘jack of all, master of none’. With not so sharp focus on any particular issue, its performance would have a higher probability of inferior quality. Narrowing of focus: After raising initial level of expectations, GVMs often restrict their activities to one or two sectors that too not necessarily the community priority ones.

10 VLessons Learned and Theoretical Implications Any programme for NRM has to be time and location specific. The success of any one regional programme cannot be replicated ditto in other regions. Modifications are required on the basis of community and social culture. Following points emerge from the study. 1. Without peoples’ greater say in the activities of any kind, the probability of long-term success is not very high. For sustainability of any programme, active involvement of local population is a necessary condition. 2. Constant efforts to upgrade not only the technological but also the managerial inputs among the stakeholders are essential for conservation and development of natural resources. 3. The government and/or non-government organisations should facilitate such efforts. It should act only as facilitator, and must not act as omnipotent and omniscient. Long term planning requires educating the population and making sure that the transfer of power from one generation to another remains smooth and democratic. 4. It is crucial to identify the stakeholders before implementing any programme. The rural society is heterogeneous and fragmented into caste and class.

11 5. The stakeholders should be accorded the rights to access, withdraw, manage, exclude and alienate in respect to natural resource utilisation. 6. Women play significant role in maintaining and managing resources. It is this group of the society that is badly hit when the resource starts degrading. In the patriarch society of India, special care should be taken to ensure, if not equal, adequate rights given to women in the society. 7. Besides women, the other marginalised section of village society is the socially backward class. In the caste hierarchy, this section stays at the bottom of the ladder. They have missed the bus of equal opportunities. Majority of this group do not own land and/or other assets significantly. They depend on the natural resources for their survival. It becomes important to address the needs of the marginalised section and facilitate them to unite and act collectively to improve their say in the management of natural resources. 8. The approach should be that of Integrated Natural Resource Development Programme.

12 Theoretical Implications The school of thoughts for NRM in the traditional economic literature The market occupies the centre stage as a better institution for resource management and price provides the correct signals of the relative scarcity/abundance of the resource. Scholars have argued in favour of privatisation of the resource on efficiency criterion. But as the implicit assumptions underlining the Pareto optimum outcomes are not met with in real world, market tends to fail in allocating the resources in the optimum manner leading to overexploitation of the resource, specially the natural resources. Also, the decisions taken under private ownership have a greater probability to result into social inequity and conflicts. The other option is nationalisation (although it can be considered as a special case of privatisation) of the resource. The State is assumed to have an edge over other systems in a number of ways. It has facilitating infrastructure and can decide about the betterment of its people more effectively in its long term planning, the low rate of discount would result into sustainable utilisation of the resource and revenue mobilisation necessary for resource development is easier for the State. But in recent times, we have seen the State failing. The insensitivity, corruption and lack of accountability prevailing in the government and bureaucratic systems are perhaps the strongest deterrents. have failed to achieve desired results.

13 Privatisation and/or nationalisation of the resource may not be the solutions for its sustainable development. Many scholars have advocated appropriate changes in the existing system of communal management for enhancing its effectiveness. All uses of natural resources, irrespective of whether they are owned privately or publicly, are interdependent and require the cooperation of all the resource users for internalising/minimising the externalities involved. In these circumstances, the sustainable utilisation of natural resources requires the collective management system.

14 It is important to understand the implications in this regard. As the experience has shown, sustainable management requires well-defined property rights. For GVMs, the membership is adequately defined. The size of stakeholders is adequate, so that monitoring of their activities can be monitored. The nature of the resource, land or irrigation, is such that free riding tendency can be curbed. The usufruct rights are well defined and monitoring by both; the stakeholders and external agency, i.e., AKRSP (I) that prevents overutilisation of resource in question. As far as resilience and sustainability are concerned, it is too early to predict the future of the resource, but let us be optimistic about the future. If the stakeholders foresee future benefits from collective management of the natural resource, they would continue following the cooperative spirit and GVMs could flourish in the future, too. As far as replication of the model is concerned, the answer can be in affirmation, provided the model is modified keeping in mind time and location characteristics as mentioned earlier. But the survival of this “spaceship’ is in our hands and only our cooperative actions can save the earth for the generations to come.

15 Let me also end this paper by remembering Mahatma Gandhi, Father of India and the founder of the institute that I represent. He fought for Indian political independence and was successful. But his real goal was economic and social independence that he tried to achieve but could not during his lifetime. His ‘Hind Swaraj’ and ‘India of my Dreams’ reveals his vision of Indian society, where he emphasised the essence of cooperation within the community for its development. Hence, it becomes our moral responsibility to fulfil his dreams. The problem of managing of natural resources is of recent origins, but had he been alive today, he would have recommended the same cooperative solution. Thank You


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