The main intervention is the creation of so-called forest user groups (FUGs). The right to manage a specific forest block and extract forest resources there is delegated to this newly created communtity-based organization.
The RCT has 4 experimental arms: one control arm and 3 arms with FUGs but different governance modalities..
• Business-as-usual forest management: This is our control group villages in which forest user groups will not be established and forest resources are under government management.
The following three treatment arms consists of villages in which FUGs will be established based on alternative approaches to select FUG leadership.
• Status quo leadership: according to the OFWE sample bylaw, members of the executive committee (EC) are “elected” by group members during a public voting event. Kahsay and Bulte (2021) show that EC members are often representatives of the local elite—higher incomes, greater wealth, better educated and connected, and involved in positions of (formal) authority. Business-as-usual selection of leadership implies that village elites “volunteer” for positions and are subsequently “supported” by other members.
• Anonymized voting: a small recent literature suggests that “local knowledge within local communities” may be leveraged to improve allocative outcomes (e.g., Casey et al., 2022, Hussam et al., 2022). We will explore possibilities to create conditions under which the most suitable and capable local candidates are identified and selected (details to be decided after follow-up pilot sessions, jointly with OFWE).
• Gender quota: in a random sub-sample of FUGs, OFWE will introduce the requirement that the EC’s vice chairperson and at least one other member are female. Currently, FUG leadership is dominated by men. Correlational evidence based on observational data suggests that local governance improves, and that better livelihood and conservation outcomes emerge when a woman is represented on the EC (Kahsay et al., 2021).