The co-management concept has been echoed in scientific literature for over two decades. Emphasis has been tailored towards an understanding of structural and functional issues linked to its application and the outcomes thereof. However, a crucial aspect which still begs for scientific and policy edification, concerns the motivational drivers of actors’ participation in co-management arrangements. Studies contend that actors are motivated to participate in co-management based on their perceived benefits (e.g., income). Conclusions from these lines of argument further raise a theoretical quagmire, requiring further grounding, with regards to context-specific (de)motivators of users’ participation in co-management. The case of Nepal is pertinent. Although Nepal has a rich community-based forest management history, scientific investigations have virtually ignored the motivational drivers of participation in the co-management of natural resources (forests). Against this background, this paper seeks to explore the following: (i) the decision-making and monitoring structure of rules regulating the co-management of forests, (ii) the implications of this system on users’ motivation to participate, and (iii) the motivational drivers of users’ participation in co-management. To achieve this, five focus group discussions and 10 key informant interviews were conducted in five villages (Kunjo, Titi, Parshyang, Cchayo, and Taglung) within the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA). We further employed narratives, framework, and thematic analyses to discuss the decision-making structure and motivational aspects of co-management. The results point to the following conclusions: (1) Despite the rather top-down decision-making setting, users remain motivated to participate in co-management. (2) Interestingly, the motivation by actors to participate is not largely driven by users’ perceived benefits. The results present another twist, a deviation from the previously understood rationale, which should be factored into co-management theory development. However, the paper equally makes a succinct request for further studies, including quantitative investigations, to ground this assertion.
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