Re-scaling the Commons: Miskitu Indians, forest commodities, and transnational development networks
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Private and public forest management projects in developing countries network at a variety of scales, but these scales are influenced by actors as part of an ongoing “politics of scale.” Field study of ten different projects in eastern Nicaragua in 2002 and 2003, including long-term fieldwork in Miskitu indigenous villages, allowed me to document how forest management involved several scales: village, multi-village bloc, municipality, autonomous region, nation, and global. I employed a range of qualitative methods, including participant observation, field walks, and case study comparison. Over twenty months I carried out more than two hundred interviews with a broad range of actors. I expanded these findings with quantitative results from household surveys on governance and forest use. In addition, I utilized extensive secondary sources, including state, business, nongovernmental organization, and donor reports. Outcomes in the case studies often involved compromises between alternative and sometimes competing viii perspectives and agendas put forth by actors at multiple governance scales. Some actions coincided with international agendas, while others challenged outside interventions. Even though indigenous populations were often not included in making important decisions, local, sub-national, and national scales were more powerful in relation to international scales than frequently depicted in globalization literature. Although forest commodity projects tend to go through a somewhat predictable series of stages, including conceptualization, negotiation, and implementation, the details of the politics of scale are often unpredictable. Development is dynamic, case-specific, and open to multiple interpretations. Nonetheless, two independent variables consistently surfaced during my analysis: security of land tenure and strength of local governance. Restricted indigenous self-determination and unclear, insecure land tenure are characteristic in eastern Nicaragua and often contribute to conflict in forest development projects.