From shiny shoes to muddy reality: understanding how meso-state actors negotiate the implementation gap in Participatory Forest Management

Authors Kairu, A.; Upton, C.; Huxham, M.; Kotut, K.; Mbeche, R.; Kairu, J.
Year of Publication 2017
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal Society & Natural Resources
Pagination 1-15
Open Access Yes


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 rollout of devolved forest governance on the ground. Here, through an ethnographic case study of forest officers (FOs) in Kenya, we draw 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 go beyond consideration of institutional bricolage in isolation or as an aggregate category, to analyze how bricolage as aggregation, alteration, and/or articulation is variously driven, shaped, and constrained by FOs’ multiple accountabilities and agency. Our analysis highlights 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” PFM.