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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Theory

Decentralization and local capacity

Variable relationship:

According to a vast amount of research on local irrigation management transfers (Garces-Restrepo et al. 2007), decentralization (Centralization) is likely to fail if three conditions associated with local capacity are not fulfilled. These conditions include the lack of collective management experience at the local level (Past Collaboration), and the lack of enough finanancial and legal support from central goverments (External Support) in the intial stages of the decentralization process. A lack of managerial skills prevents users from being effective in self-organizing and from making appropriate decisions. External support is important in overcoming local managerial deficits.

Scientific Field
Component Type(s)
Local Resource User Group, Group of Local Resource User Groups, Local Government, Group of Local Governments


VariableRoleRole ExplanationValue
CentralizationProximate independent variableThe Degree of centralization decreases, as authority is transferred from a higher to a lower level of governmentHighly to somewhat decentralized
Past collaborationModerating independent variablePast collaboration with regard to resource use facilitates that local user groups effectively fully take on management once this is transferred to themLow
External supportModerating independent variableSupport from government of the decentralization process contributes to better transfer of knowledge and managerial skills and potentially overcome local deficits in those regardsNo support
Commons condition trendFinal outcomeLocal units without appropriate managerial skills are less likely to manage their resources appropriately than otherwise and run a higher risk of resource degradationWorsened

Related Theories

TheoryRelationshipCharacterizing Variables
Decentralization and leakagerelated
Political decentralization and fitcontradictory
Decentralization and elite capturerelated
Centralized conservationrelated
Past collaboration and social capitalrelated
Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM)contradictory

Related Studies


Garces-Restrepo, Carlos , Douglas Vermillion, and Giovanni Muñoz. 2007. Irrigation management transfer: Worldwide efforts and results. In FAO Water Reports. Rome, Italy: Fod and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.