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Abstract

This paper examines group functioning in the management of common pool resources, such as forests. In recent years community forestry groups have mushroomed in South Asia. But how participative, equitable and efficient are they? Many have done well in the short run in terms of regenerating previously degraded lands. But are they reaping the full potential benefit of their efforts, and will they sustain? Equally, are the benefits and costs being shared equitably between rich and poor households and between women and men? The paper demonstrates that seemingly participative, equitable, and successful groups can reveal significant inequities and inefficiencies when viewed from a gender perspective. The paper also examines the factors that constrain women's (especially but not only poor women's) participation, and those that lead to gender inequitable outcomes. It argues that participation and distributional equity (and associated fallouts for efficiency) depend especially on rules, norms, perceptions, personal endowments and attributes, and household endowments and attributes. Reducing the gender bias embedded in these factors would depend on women's bargaining power with the State, the community and the family. The paper outlines the likely determinants of women's bargaining power in these arenas, and analyses ground experience in terms of progress made and dilemmas encountered.

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