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Murali, R., Bijoor, A., Thinley, T., Gurmet, K., Chunit, K., Tobge, R., Thuktan, T., Suryawanshi, K., Nagendra, H., Mishra, C. (2022). Indigenous governance structures for maintaining an ecosystem service in an agro-pastoral community in the Indian Trans Himalaya. Ecosystems and People, 18(1), 303–314.
Abstract: The majority of the global terrestrial biodiversity occurs on indigenous lands, and biodiversity decline on these lands is relatively slower. Yet, robust understanding of indigenous governance systems for biodiversity and ecosystem services remains a key knowledge gap. We used the socio-ecological systems framework to study the governance of ecosystem services (ES) by an indigenous community in the Village of Kibber in the Trans-Himalayan Mountains of India. Focusing on plant-biomass removal from communal pastures, we identified the main factors shaping local governance using in-depth focal and deliberative group discussions with community members. Notwithstanding inequities of caste and gender, we found that Kibber had a well-functioning, complex, relatively democratic and inclusive system, with all households of the village involved in decision-making related to ES governance. Robust systems of information sharing, monitoring, conflict resolution, and self-organization played an important role. We found the role of institutional memory sustained by the oracle to be critical in maintaining governance structures. Our work underscores the potential resilience and importance of indigenous systems for the governance of ecosystem services.