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Working Paper 36


For the rural poor – who depend above all the land for their survival – a central development challenge is to sustain a base of natural capital that can support a robust local economy. In India, government mismanagement of forests, grazing lands, and water resources has often alienated rural people and exacerbated resource degradation. This paper shows the potential to reverse these trends when local people gain control over natural resources and manage them through systems of participatory democracy. Four case studies from semi-arid, hilly regions of India illustrate how democratic control of natural assets can lay the basis for ecological restoration and sustainable livelihoods.

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