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Rethinking the role of consensus in pluralism: Learning from community-based forest management in Yunnan, China

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 10, 2013 09:11 AM
Contributors: G. Cao, L. Zhang

In this examination of social learning in community forestry experiences, the authors contest the notion that open, mediated conflict is essential to successful community forestry development. In the current literature, properly mediated conflicts are seen as positive due to the negotiated agreements that result from them. However, in some cultures, conflict is shameful and consensus is prized. Cultural factors influence the development of community forestry policies. Different cultural and political contexts have different points of balance between conflict and consensus. Three case studies are highlighted to show the importance of consensus and compromise, mutual values, and informal negotiation. The villages have been impacted by usufruct policy that was implemented in the 1980\rquote s, which assigned a forest area to each household. The development of community objectives and management practices for these forests was analyzed in each case study. Communication proved to be important in the development of management practices due to the desire within the community for group consensus, which created a need for a dependable flow of information among the villagers. Daily informal communication, as opposed to mediated negotiations, reduced the severity of conflicts and enabled them to be resolved. A leader acting as an inside facilitator proved to be important in these case studies. The authors suggest that communities are primed for internal negotiations when certain crises such as food shortages or policy changes are foreseen. The villagers in this study emphasized coordination rather than mediation, an important social component that is often overlooked in literature on pluralism.

Author(s): G. Cao , L. Zhang

Publication Date: 2001

Location: Yunnan, China

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