Agropastoral systems in Kyrgyzstan have undergone dramatic change in recent decades. In large part, change has resulted from the introduction of legislation that devolves authority and responsibility for the management of common-pool agropastoral resources to community-level pasture users associations. By applying Ostrom’s principles of common resource governance, this paper analyzes the institutions and norms that currently shape local management practices in rural areas of Naryn Province in Kyrgyzstan and the views of different actors on pasture governance, including points of disagreement. Our research and analysis reveal that the community-initiated and -owned systems of pasture governance that were expected to develop and mature under the new Pasture Law have not yet been entirely realized. Decentralization occurred without the participation or awareness of most local resource users. As a consequence, users are creating and reinforcing their own community-defined practices and internal rules, leaving official management plans largely ignored and unenforced. Resource users tend to perceive the government-sanctioned pasture users associations not as public or democratic organizations that represent their interests, but rather as agencies that aim primarily to control the use of resources, exclude some people from decision-making, or impose taxation. Sustainable management of pasturelands therefore may best be served when community perspectives are more suitably integrated—from the planning phase through to collaborative governance and implementation of locally agreed upon management options.
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