From shiny shoes to muddy reality: understanding how meso-state actors negotiate the implementation gap in Participatory Forest Management
Recent research on Participatory Forest Management (PFM) in the Global South has highlighted the existence of a widespread ‘implementation gap’ between the ambitious intent enshrined in legislation and the often partial, disappointing roll-out of devolved forest governance on the ground. Here, through an ethnographic case study of Forest Officers in Kenya, we drew on a framework of Critical Institutionalism to examine how key meso-level actors, or ‘interface bureaucrats’, negotiate and challenge this implementation gap in everyday forest governance. We went beyond consideration of institutional bricolage in isolation or as an aggregate category, to analyse how bricolage as aggregation, alteration and/ or articulation is variously driven, shaped and constrained by Forest Officers’ multiple accountabilities and agency. Our analysis highlighted the locally specific, contingent and mutually reinforcing nature of accountability, agency and bricolage and their explanatory power in relation to the performance and nature of ‘actually existing’ Participatory Forest Management.