This article compares a range of initiatives aimed at involving people in the management of forest resources in Nepal and India. In Nepal, we focus on three categories of state-initiated programs: community forestry,the parks’ buffer zone program, and leasehold forestry. In\ud the southern Indian state of Karnataka, we study the state initiated Joint Forest Planning and Management program along with older institutions of leaf manure forests (Soppina betta) and historical sacred forests (Kans). We conclude that state-initiated approaches to involving communities have been limited, at best, promote standardized and relatively inflexible management practices, and lead to partial improvement in biodiversity and people’s livelihoods. When management is initiated and owned by the community, as in the case of sacred groves in India, and when other conditions are appropriate, communities can have the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity for putting effective and adaptive conservation practices in place
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