During the last two decades, considerable attention has been paid to the issue of local participation and government involvement in communitybased conservation initiatives. While the main purpose to introduce such measures was to increase transparency and local decision making in resource management, forest services have been sidelined, mainly on the premise that they are too corrupt and ineffective to play a useful role in natural resource management. In this paper, we expose the limitations of conventional ideas of corruption in understanding forestry services. Corruption for personal gains is just one aspect of the issue. We analyze how forest agents, faced with severe shortages of resources, engage in what we call an ‘alternative system’ in order to perform official tasks. We argue that a better understanding of these issues will help to both reform and redefine the role of forest services so that they can become viable actors in community-based conservation.
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Vol. 12 • No. 3