| By A. Bebbington, H.Carrasco, L.Peralbo, G.Ramón, V.H. Torres and J.Trujillo | Published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 18 Number 2: 179-196 |

Abstract: Recent discussions of resource management suggest that one of the most important factors in sustaining use systems on fragile lands is the strength of local representative institutions: rural resource management and the consolidation of rural civil society must both therefore be central concerns in any viable land use strategy in these areas. Pursuing this relationship between local organizations and resource management, the paper discusses the experiences of several Indian federations in Ecuador that occupy fragile environments under increasing pressure from processes of national and local development. These federations have sought to identify resource management strategies to resist these destabilizing forces and so allow continued Indian occupance of these lands. These strategies have represented a constant search to protect local land rights, to assert a specifically Indian cultural identity, and to identify an ecologically and economically viable resource management strategy for Indian families. The most successful strategies to date have been those that combine traditional and modern practices in a way that responds to Indians’ increasing consumption requirements and to grassroots management capacities. In doing so they have also helped strengthen the federations themselves. This empirical analysis is related to a discussion of points of contact between the debates on rural democratization and on traditional resource management, and specifically between the geographic traditions of cultural and political ecology, and the literature on agrarian movements. A dialogue between these perspectives could lead to analyses that are at once more reflective of local realities and more able to contribute to the development of viable local resource use strategies.