Local Societies and Rural Development

Local Societies and Rural Development

Self-organization and Participatory Development in Asia

Edited by Shinichi Shigetomi and Ikuko Okamoto

The importance of community-based and participatory approaches to rural development in developing countries has long been emphasized. Rural people, who are economically and politically weak as individuals, can only participate in development projects when they are collectively organized. However, this is no easy task. This book aims to identify the mechanisms in each local society through which rural people can best organize themselves to meet their development requirements. It stresses the need to find local mechanisms that motivate and control the members of a new organization in order to achieve organizational goals.

Chapter 4: Organizing community forestry in rural Myanmar: capability and functions of villages

Ikuko Okamoto

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, development studies, agricultural economics, asian development, development studies, environment, agricultural economics, urban and regional studies, regional studies


How do the Myanmar rural communities organize for collective action? This is the key question that this chapter attempts to answer. With increased emphasis on community-based and participatory approaches in rural development, as explained in Chapter 1, an understanding of the specific mechanisms for organizing in each local society is critical for creating local organizations that are “spontaneous, sustainable, and transferrable.” To better grasp the features of local mechanisms for organizing collective actions in rural Myanmar, this chapter focuses on a community forestry program that was introduced to the country in the mid-1990s. As is well known, community forestry programs are methods of forest management that involve local people’s active participation. By examining details of the organizing process, including who takes the lead, how local people are mobilized, how ideas are implemented, and how activities are monitored, I attempt to identify the local social mechanisms at work in the community forestry program in present-day rural Myanmar. There are two main reasons that this analysis focuses on the case of community forestry. First, the community forestry program is the first ever program in which the Myanmar government has explicitly emphasized “local people’s participation.” Over the past 50 years, under both the socialist regime (1962–1988) and the military regime (1988–2011), policy and decision-making processes in Myanmar have generally been top-down.

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