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  1. SIO 295Common property resources

  2. Readings • E. Ostrom, Governing the Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1990) • E. Ostrom, “Reformulating the commons,” in Protecting the Commons, ed. J. Burger et al. (Island Press, 2001) • J.M. Baland & J.P. Platteau, Halting Degradation of Natural Resources (Clarendon Press, 1996) • J.M. Baland and J.P. Platteau, “Economics of common property management regimes,” in Handbook of Environmental Economics, Vol. 1, ed. K.G. Mäler and J.R. Vincent (North-Holland, 2003)

  3. Collective action • Fishers have an incentive to craft an agreement with the following key features: • All fishers agree to limit their effort so that the collective effort does not exceed EMEY • The fishers agree to hire someone to ensure that no one cheats • All fishers receive a share of the rent that remains after paying costs of policing • Why doesn’t this self-organization happen?

  4. CPRs • Actually, it does happen: many examples of common property resources (CPRs) in developing countries, and not just for fisheries • Long studied by anthropologists, largely ignored by economists until 1990s • “Tragedy of the Commons” model predicts rent dissipation in part because it didn’t allow cooperation or repeated interaction among fishers • “Prisoner’s dilemma”

  5. Example of fishery CPR: beach seining in s. Sri Lanka • Rules • Village fishing collective controls stretch of beach • Villagers are allowed to fish only if own a share of a net (transferred only through inheritance) • Nets require 8 fishermen to operate and are owned jointly • Ownership carries obligation to work when required • Each owner/operator receives 1/8th share of catch • Rotation system provides equal access to different zones of beach

  6. Literature on CPRs, per B&P • “A striking feature of most of these studies lies in the fact that their authors are generally convinced that, given the glaring failure of state ownership experiences in developing countries, collective, community-based regulation holds out the best prospects for efficient management of village-level natural resources.” • “Yet, since they recognize at the same time that the balance sheet of actual experiences of common property management is mixed, the central aim of their inquiries is typically to understand the reasons that can account for these varying levels of performance ….”

  7. CPRs don’t always evolve • Attributes of users (“appropriators”) • Attributes of the resource • CPRs don’t always endure • Example: Meg McKean’s analysis of common lands in Japan (see Ostrom, Governing the Commons) • 12 million ha of forests and uncultivated mountain meadows during 17th-19th centuries • 3 million ha today • CPRs are not altruistic utopias • Rather, like hard-nosed condominium associations

  8. Conditions under which CPRsare likely to evolve • Attributes of the resource • Spatial extent: sufficiently small that users can develop accurate knowledge of characteristics • Indicators: information on condition is regularly available and not too costly • Predictability: flow of goods is relatively predictable • Feasible improvement: not too underutilized or too overutilized

  9. Attributes of the users • Salience: significantly dependent on resource • Low discount rate: value future benefits at non-negligible level • Common understanding: of resource attributes • Autonomy: user group can set access and harvesting rules without being countermanded by external authority • Prior organizational experience and local leadership: have participated in other local associations or learned how other groups have organized • Trust and reciprocity: expect promises will be kept

  10. Attributes of long-enduring CPRS • Minimal recognition of rights to organize • “Ownership of the uncultivated lands near a village devolved from the imperial court to the villages through several intermediate stages involving land stewards and locally based warriors.” • Counter-example: Nepal (Michael Wallace, “Managing resources that are common property,” JPAM, 1983)—”Until 1957, when the forests were nationalized, villagers controlled the use of the forests in their localities. … villagers reacted negatively to nationalization, believing that their traditional rights of access and use had been curtailed. As a result, local responsibility for forest protection disappeared. Whereas previously there had been communal responsibility for managing the forest, after nationalization no one took responsibility for managing this resource.”

  11. Clearly defined boundaries • Resource: “National cadastral surveys were conducted late in the 16th century at a time of land reform …. As villages asserted their own rights to these lands, they shared a clear image of which lands were private and which were held in common.” • Users: “Each village contained a carefully recorded, defined number of households.” “Rights were variously based on cultivation rights in land, taxpaying obligations, or ownership rights in land. In some villages, almost all households had … rights to the use of the commons. In others, such rights were more narrowly held.”

  12. Congruence • Appropriation rules and resource conditions: “A village headman usually was responsible for determining the date when the harvesting of a given product could begin. For abundant plants, the date would be selected simply to ensure that plants had matured and had propagated themselves. No limit was placed on the amount to be gathered. For scarce products, various harvesting rules were used.” • Distribution of benefits of appropriation and costs of rules: “There were written rules about the obligation of each household to contribute a share to the collective work to maintain the commons. Accounts were kept about who contributed what to make sure that no household evaded its responsibilities unnoticed.”

  13. Collective-choice arrangements • Individuals affected by rules can participate in modifying them: “Each village … was governed by an assembly, usually composed of the heads of all the households that had been assigned decision-making authority in the village.” “… village assemblies created detailed authority rules specifying in various ways how much of each valued product a household could harvest from the commons and under what conditions.”

  14. Monitoring • “Given that the mountain usually was closed, except for specific periods, anyone caught in the community-owned territories at other times obviously was not following the rules. Most of the villages hired ‘detectives’ who daily patrolled the commons on horseback in groups of two looking for unauthorized users.”

  15. Graduated sanctions • “An occasional infraction would be handled by the detective in a quiet and simple manner. ‘It was considered perfectly appropriate for the detective to demand cash and saké from violators ….’” • “The most serious sanctions that could be and occasionally were imposed involved complete ostracism or ultimately banishment from the village.”

  16. Conflict-resolution mechanisms • Genuine disagreement about management decisions of village headman could occur • Mechanisms can exist within village or by appeal to external authority

  17. Rousseau’s “noble savages”? • B&P: “The anthropological literature provides us with interesting examples of hunting and fishing societies where the agents of ecological destruction have a poor understanding of their role in this process.”

  18. Ponams (PNG): “opposed a government plan aimed at the conservation of fish and other marine resources … because they refused to ascribe declining fish catches to a decrease in fish population” (Carrier 1987)

  19. Cree (James Bay): acc. Berkes (1987), “Cree practices violate nearly every conservation-oriented, indirect-effort control measure in the repertory of contemporary scientific fisheries management. … hunters are passive. Any management system claiming to maximize productivity by manipulating the animals is considered arrogant.”

  20. Senegal: “They do not seriously consider the possibility of their being partly responsible for overfishing; therefore, the idea that they could combat environmental degradation by restricting their own fishing effort seems alien to most of them. The tendency to ‘blame the other’ for stock depletion is typical of almost all artisanal fishing communities …. ” (Gaspart and Platteau 2001)