1 Fenricage

3.02 U.S. Territorial Expansion Assignment

Caveats

Before we discuss our findings, we identify caveats of this work. (1) Although propensity score matching can produce correct estimates even with small sample sizes (see Pirracchio et al. 2012), small statistical power may still impede detection of small but significant effects. (2) As with every matching exercise, our results depend on the PS model specification (Caliendo and Kopeinig 2008). The matching estimator might be biased if the project participation is driven by criteria other than ones observable to a researcher. Although we attempted to include all observable covariates in our PS model (by informing ourselves about projects’ background and accounting for alternative explanations of measured effects), we still might have omitted some factors that simultaneously influenced involvement and measured outcomes. To minimize bias from unobserved variables, we ran different model specifications with all potential variables, and we found that our results remained robust with one exception: the significance of the variable on attitudes towards tiger changed for the H1-related model. (3) Our assessment of project effects is based on the respondents’ perceptions, a measure which might be considered less objective. Our proxy variables of biodiversity attitudes, trust and satisfaction towards PTR authority are coarse estimates, as they were measured with a single question. In-depth understanding of the complex issues such as biodiversity attitudes, institutional trust or satisfaction requires qualitative or longitudinal data to reflect the field situation more realistically. In this study, we use qualitative interview data to explain and complement survey findings. (4) We collected survey data on conservation knowledge and attitudes from one household member. Since the specific living context (such as a household) conditions respondent’s answers, we assumed that these answers could represent the whole household. However, we are not in a position to evaluate whether there are individual-level differences within households. (5) Responses to our survey questions might be biased because interviewees tend to give socially desirable answers and we might have over-reported or under-reported the results. Nevertheless, we have taken all the necessary measures to gain the interviewees’ trust so they feel more comfortable expressing their genuine opinions: we clearly explained research objectives, guaranteed and respected confidentiality and anonymity, and we asked sensitive questions using the neutral wording. (6) We cannot generalize our findings for all of India, as we study a single PA that is not particularly known for either success or the failure of the ED project. Despite all the limitations of our data, we argue that our results provide interesting food for thought that can help guide future research in the field and contribute to the limited evidence base on top-down participation effects. Future research on the topic should aim for greater statistical power, have robust baseline data and include more detailed proxies of trust, conservation attitudes and behaviour. Future evaluations should be further improved by measuring not only social effects, but also incorporating biophysical indicators of the impact, such as forest cover change. In the following paragraphs, we discuss our survey findings supported by the qualitative data from interviews with different PTR actors.

The effect of top-down participation

Although literature suggests that people’s involvement in conservation might have a positive effect on social and ecological outcomes (e.g. Andrade and Rhodes 2012), our findings imply that the top-down externally induced participation might not actually be effective in delivering required conservation outcomes. Our results also suggest short-term legacy of these interventions. Specifically, we found that involvement in the two state-driven participatory projects had an effect on the level of conservation knowledge only. Furthermore, the magnitude of the effect was low, as knowledge about PTR existence; location and regulations were relatively weak in the matched subsamples. We have not found effects of involvement on people’s conservation attitudes.

A small effect of top-down participation has several implications for the analysed system. The low conservation-related knowledge might act as an obstacle for engagement in a pro-conservation behaviour and rule compliance (Schultz 2002). A closer look at the knowledge variable reveals that only 21 % participant and 10.9 % non-participant households could define “buffer zone”. Our qualitative interviews support findings of the survey and showed how recent administrative changes connected to the buffer zone expansion (in 2013 and 2014) created some confusion, wherein locals were not aware of how these changes might affect their rights and they feared forced relocation. We argue that this finding reflects low activity level of ED and JFM committees. If they were fully functional co-management institutions, they would probably facilitate interactions between locals and the PTR staff and act as an arena for exchange and co-production of knowledge, trust building and conflict resolution (see Berkes 2009).

We found no effect of involvement on local people’s biodiversity attitudes. Our findings concur with another independent ED evaluation from Periyar Tiger Reserve (Gubbi et al. 2008), where conservation attitudes could not be explained by the project involvement but by previous experience of human–wildlife conflict, among other factors. In our study, local people’s attitudes towards biodiversity were overall positive. However, locals hardly perceived benefits of conservation interventions. Data from interviews suggest that some local people perceive that good enforcement and the ban on resource extraction from the PTR core zone have resulted in higher wildlife abundance and intensification of crop raiding in adjacent agricultural fields. Moreover, villagers seemed frustrated to frequent crop-raiding incidents. The everyday fight for subsistence, such as defending fields from wild animals, does not permit locals to have any free time for other activities (Interview, forest villager, January 2014) and therefore no time to attend EDC meetings. Locals involved in ED project frequently perceive ED provisions to be insufficient to offset these big costs connected to both park access restrictions and agricultural losses (EDC member, February 2014). They often demanded to fence their fields and to be better compensated from crop raiding. Our findings suggest that the top-down participation coupled with high conservation-related costs would not be able to generate sufficient support of locals towards conservation practices. In another study, top-down participation in formal forest conservation and management groups was even negatively associated with peoples’ attitudes towards biodiversity (Macura et al. 2011). Moreover, dissatisfaction with management policies and practice could easily translate into a local collective action against conservation (see Rastogi et al. 2014).

The difference a project makes

When comparing the outcomes of ED and JFM projects, we found that despite the aforementioned differences in projects’ objectives and design, there is possibly no real distinction between the two projects at the implementation level and vis-à-vis the intensity and nature of participation. Thus, we found no difference between the ED- and JFM-participating households, except in the level of conservation knowledge. As hypothesized, ED-participating households have higher levels of knowledge than the JFM-participating households and this is not surprising. Villagers further away from the PTR might not necessarily know the PTR boundaries or the resource access rules and they also possibly have fewer encounters with the PTR authorities. This finding concurs with other research reporting conservation knowledge to be inversely associated with a residence distance from a PA (Ormsby and Kaplin 2005; Olomí-Solà et al. 2012).

Both JFM and ED are designed as participatory projects. Nevertheless, both of them are implemented in a top-down way with passive engagement of participants (Hildyard et al. 2001; Tiger Task Force 2005). Moreover, villagers frequently identify the ED project with the actual MPFD, where ED is seen as a one more way of forest access control (Interview, local NGO member, March 2014; also in Read 2015; Sarin et al. 2003). Scholars have interpreted such types of participatory projects as a state-driven territorialization (Véron and Fehr 2011) and “recentralizing while decentralizing” (Ribot et al. 2006). This perception of control and reluctance of the forest department to give real power to locals can be possibly explained with the internal organizational structure and working culture of the forest department. The forest department is responsible to implement participatory strategies when, at the same time, a strong sense of hierarchy is present within their own organization (Lawrence 2007; Fleischman 2015; Guha 1997). According to Vemuri (2008), attitudinal changes of forest department staff to prepare for the policy that advocates social inclusion into the hierarchical system of forest management did not happen. As the forest department staff frequently lacks time and adequate training for implementing the participatory activities, these initiatives are never truly institutionalized (Fleischman 2015). Moreover, changing from being an enforcement officer to someone who has also to “talk to and drink tea together with the villagers” is often an uneasy task (Interview, PTR lower level forest officer-wildlife wing, March 2014).

Although ED and JFM are designed to create people’s support for conservation and manage conflicts, data from qualitative interviews show that these projects may even have negative social impacts. Village and household benefits and provisions used to be more abundant under IEDP, but are now limited. This might have raised disappointments among locals. Moreover, qualitative data also showed that EDC meetings, that are supposedly arenas to negotiate benefits with MPFD or to make resource management decisions, are nowadays either non-existent or very rare in both JFM and ED. When funding is available, provisions are distributed (once per year/2 years) in a top-down way and local demands (for example, fences against crop raiding) are often not fulfilled. Moreover, when benefits are available, internal conflicts may increase among locals, as there are not enough provisions for everyone in the village (e.g. 10 gas cylinders per a village of 300 households) (Informal interview, villager, January 2014). Since EDC members are intermediaries between local people and MPFD, they are often blamed for unfulfilled demands or unequal distribution of benefits (Interview, EDC member, January 2014), which may translate into intra-community conflicts.

Giving incentives can change people’s conservation values, as it has been observed in other cases (García-Amado et al. 2013). However, if not executed properly and without active local participation, incentive-based conservation can exacerbate local conflicts and existing social differences, prompting the capture of benefits by local elites, excluding the poor and marginalized parts of the society (Balooni et al. 2010), instead of creating positive behavioural changes towards conservation.

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