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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 49-61

State Building and Local Democracy in Benin: Two Cases of Decentralised Forest Management


FIDESPRA-Centre for Knowledge and Sustainable Development, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Universite d'Abomey-Calavi, CEBEDES-Xudodo, 02 BP 778-Gbegamey, Cotonou, Benin

Correspondence Address:
Roch Mongbo
FIDESPRA-Centre for Knowledge and Sustainable Development, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Universite d'Abomey-Calavi, CEBEDES-Xudodo, 02 BP 778-Gbegamey, Cotonou
Benin
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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Beyond local development, the political agenda of decentralisation in West Africa was the restoration of state legitimacy and power, and some enhancement of local democracy. The mix of local institutions created in preceding participatory development projects resulted in fragmented forms of authority. Elsewhere, lo­cal communities have developed their own institutions for managing local affairs. How in such a context do elected local governments wield power, recognise other authorities and contribute to restoration of national state legitimacy? The Lokoly forest in Benin was never subject to state intervention. The Toui-Kilibo forest, however, has been a protected state forest since 1940 and a site for participatory forest management projects since early 1990s. In both cases, the public domain has been enclosed and local government legitimacy over forest resource management contested, hampering the formation of a so-called democratic local government. This article compares these two cases, elaborating on social actors' strategies in the symbolic construction and channelling of power, and on the challenges local governments face when attempting to wield legitimate authority over public spaces and articulate local politics to national state building.


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