Why do foresters plant trees? Testing theories of bureaucratic decision-making in central India

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There is growing awareness of the problems of applying blueprint approaches to public sector management in developing countries, however scholars lack tools for context-specific policy advice. This paper develops an organitoring focuses on the short-term sizing framework for theories of bureaucratic action, and applies this theory to Indian forest departments' tree-planting programs. Tree planting is implemented successfully in the central Indian regions of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh states, but does not protect ecosystems or reduce poverty. This partial success is driven by interplay between the self-regarding behavior of bureaucrats and a professional logic of appropriateness, and is a challenge to single-issue reformers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-74
Number of pages13
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I gratefully acknowledge funding support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship ( #2007054263 ). I could not have completed this research without the facilities provided to me by colleagues at the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, the Centre for Economic and Social Studies in Hyderabad, and Shodh: The Institute for Research and Development in Nagpur, as well as by the forest departments of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and hundreds of individual forest officers and other informants. Rucha Ghate and Gopinath Reddy provided me with essential introductions and advice about the region, while Siddhesh Joshi and Ramdas Dagam provided invaluable field assistance. I have received valuable input on this paper from Elinor Ostrom, Arun Agrawal, Burney Fischer, Catherine Tucker, Armando Razo, Sergio Villamayor-Tomas, Gwen Arnold, Rachel Fleishman, Travis Selmier, Claudia Rodriguez-Solorzano, and seminars at Indiana University, Dartmouth College, Syracuse University, UMass-Amherst, and Texas A&M.


  • Asia
  • Ethnography
  • Forests
  • India
  • Plantations
  • Public sector reform


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