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Legal Pluralism and Decentralization: Natural Resource Management in Mali


  • Benjamin, Charles E.


Summary Much recent work on decentralized natural resource management has focused on the institutional arrangements that shape the balance of powers between central and local governments. It has given comparatively less attention to relationships between local government and community-level institutions. In Mali, decentralization has superimposed modern legal institutions on community institutions. The ambiguous relationships between them can undermine both the authority of nascent local governments and the performance of customary institutions. Legal pluralism--the coexistence and interaction of multiple normative orders with different sources of legitimacy and authority--helps explain the dynamic nature of local institutions under decentralization. This article examines the experiences of three Malian communities with decentralized natural resource management: one maintains autonomy from government, another engaged its local government, and a third negotiated a multi-stakeholder agreement--a local convention. They demonstrate that crafting workable relationships between communities and local government requires a pragmatic approach to negotiating and institutionalizing political space for innovation in self-governance.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin, Charles E., 2008. "Legal Pluralism and Decentralization: Natural Resource Management in Mali," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(11), pages 2255-2276, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:36:y:2008:i:11:p:2255-2276

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Agrawal, Arun & Gibson, Clark C., 1999. "Enchantment and Disenchantment: The Role of Community in Natural Resource Conservation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 629-649, April.
    2. Blaikie, Piers, 2006. "Is Small Really Beautiful? Community-based Natural Resource Management in Malawi and Botswana," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 1942-1957, November.
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    7. Ribot, Jesse C. & Agrawal, Arun & Larson, Anne M., 2006. "Recentralizing While Decentralizing: How National Governments Reappropriate Forest Resources," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 1864-1886, November.
    8. Larson, Anne M., 2002. "Natural Resources and Decentralization in Nicaragua: Are Local Governments Up to the Job?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 17-31, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nolte, Kerstin & Voget-Kleschin, Lieske, 2014. "Consultation in Large-Scale Land Acquisitions: An Evaluation of Three Cases in Mali," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 654-668.
    2. Schnegg, Michael & Linke, Theresa, 2015. "Living Institutions: Sharing and Sanctioning Water among Pastoralists in Namibia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 205-214.
    3. Hamilton-Hart, Natasha, 2017. "The Legal Environment and Incentives for Change in Property Rights Institutions," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 167-176.
    4. Turner, Matthew D. & Ayantunde, Augustine A. & Patterson, Kristen P. & Patterson, E. Daniel, 2012. "Conflict Management, Decentralization and Agropastoralism in Dryland West Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 745-757.
    5. Fernández-Giménez, María E. & Batkhishig, Baival & Batbuyan, Batjav & Ulambayar, Tungalag, 2015. "Lessons from the Dzud: Community-Based Rangeland Management Increases the Adaptive Capacity of Mongolian Herders to Winter Disasters," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 48-65.
    6. Verbrugge, Boris, 2015. "Decentralization, Institutional Ambiguity, and Mineral Resource Conflict in Mindanao, Philippines," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 449-460.
    7. Ollenburger, Mary H. & Descheemaeker, Katrien & Crane, Todd A. & Sanogo, Ousmane M. & Giller, Ken E., 2016. "Waking the Sleeping Giant: Agricultural intensification, extensification or stagnation in Mali's Guinea Savannah," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 58-70.


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