||A Structural Analysis of Communal Forest Management in the Low-lying Areas of Lao PDR
This paper shows empirically how local communities in the low-lying areas of Lao PDR manage the common-pool resources of the communal forest. Previous studies showed that the local community participates in forest management. However, they did not address the question of whether local communities can appropriately manage communal forests. This question pertains to the management of common-pool resources. According to Ostrom (1990), common-pool resources are excessively appropriated, due to the negative externalities, and insufficiently managed, due to the free rider problem. This paper focuses on the institutions that local communities establish in efforts to prevent or mitigate these problems and on the communities’ social capital. According to Inoue (2009), Ostrom (2003), and Ostrom and Ahn (eds.) (2003), social capital plays a role in encouraging the members of local communities to contribute to the management of common-pool resources. In this paper, we use structural equation modeling (SEM) to analyze quantitatively the structure of communities’ social capital with regard to forest management. We reach three conclusions. First, villages have institutions to prevent the problem of forest overuse. Second, local resident do not always manage the communal forest well, due to the free rider problem, but if they create and maintain long-term social capital, they tend to manage the forest better than if they do not. Third, combining reciprocity with other social capital factors—trust and the social network—may mitigate the problem of overuse without the community having to establish a formal institution.