The rising population exerts pressure on communally held natural resources in many parts of the world. In the developing world, where local communities depend on natural resources such as rivers, lakes, marine environment, forests, and grazing land for their livelihoods, this pressure is experienced more leading to depletion of the resources and conflicts surrounding the manner of sharing the scarce resources. Thus, different communities employ diverse means of managing these resources or property for sustainability to address their collective problems. Therefore, this essay will examine the probable utilization of communally held property to address common problem. The paper will be informed by the work of Joshua Cinner, Garrett Hardin, and Robert Wade and other related literature on the same field.
There are numerous problems that are encountered by communities when property is held in common, for example pollution, overexploitation of resources such as overfishing in oceans, and erosion of soil due to overgrazing, just to mention a few. This is as a result of persons not putting into account the social cost of their behavior due to the fear that others would exploit and benefit from the resource before them (Wade 220). Therefore, there is a need to avert the tragedy of the overexploitation of communally held resources (Hardin 1243). Hardin proposes mutual coercion, that is, the coercion that has been agreed upon collectively by affected parties (1247). This coercion is enforced by an external agent that enforces the agreements through legislation (Hardin 162). However, Wade has a contrary opinion when he asserts that the analytical arguments used by many theorists on property rights to reach the aforementioned position have been “inappropriately applied to certain types of village resources” (219). Furthermore, Wade asserts that “there can be no general presumption that collective action rather than state regulation or privatization will work” (219). This underlies local collective action or solution, where condition permit is more desirable and makes sense economically than privatization and state regulation (Wade 219-220).
Besides, the success of mutual benefit in the use and management of common resources or property depends on mainly three factors; the nature of the resources, the composition of the resource users, and the relationship between the users and the state. These three factors that are an impetus to successful collective action can be broken down to the following: (i) resources (ii) technology (iii) relation between resources and users (iv) characteristics of users (v) boundaries (vi) noticeability (vii) relation between users and the state (Wade 231-232).
In order to counter the aforementioned challenge, there are various ways in which societies manage their resources such as marine property. For instance, Western societies prefer to managing resources through the open-access model while communities such as those in the Pacific employ the Customary Marine Tenure (CMT) paradigm (Cinner 36). In the CMT paradigm, marine resources are controlled by the existing local social units such as the village, individuals and families. Moreover, these systems vary from the simple ones to the complex one depending on locality (Cinner 36). Additionally, emerging socioeconomic factors that result in immigration, availability of new markets and reduce dependency on marine resources has a bearing on the power of communities to employ or maintain exclusive marine tenure regimes (Cinner 36).
The probable utilization of communally held resource to address the commons problem would be to enhance the power of the group and users of the common resource, reinforce the group feeling among the users, and increase the economic standards of the users of the resources.
The more people are able to benefit from the collective action and common resources, the more there is an impetus to stick together and solve the common problem (Wade 775). This is also given credence by Cinner when he states that communities that are highly dependent on marine resources are prone to employing exclusive marine tenure policies to increase and protect their livelihood (36). Moreover, the higher the demands for livelihood, the higher the chance of the successful use of common property. This is because as people are concerned about the sustainability of their income they are more prone to sustain collective action and argue less about income increase (Wade, 775).
Common property can also be used to enhance the social identity and group feeling and in the process help to address the commons problem. It has been shown that there is a positive relationship that exists between dependence on resources, identifying with the resource and the protection of the common resource for the benefit of all. Moreover, “the more the users are concerned about their social reputation, the better the chances of success” (Wade 776). Furthermore, Cinner argues that “the relationship found between high dependence on marine resources and the exclusivity of marine tenure regimes is consisitent with research on an array of common pool resources that suggests a positive relationship exist between resource dependence and participation in common property” (36).
Common resource may be used to increase the economic standards of the local communities. The more the common people benefit economically from the common property the higher the chances that they will protect it and preserve it. It has been observed in fishing communities that communities that depend entirely on marine environments for economic empowerment enforce a more strict and exclusive marine tenure regime, and would use means such as the confiscation of fishing equipment or even violence to protect their common property. Conversely, communities that depend less on marine resources do not employ exclusive marine tenure as it is not feasible as the costs of exclusive territorial defense are higher than the gains (Cinner 36).
Common property can be used to enhance the relationship between the state and local communities. The more authority the local people have on the administration of communally held resource, the higher the chances that they will manage it well and solve some of their problems. Additionally, the less the government interferes with the management of local based resources, the less the urge to enforce private property laws and provide resources from its budget, and the more it will save and the better the likelihood of success.
In conclusion, this essay examined the probable utilization of communally held property to address commons problem. There are numerous problems that are encountered by communities when property is held in common, for example pollution, overexploitation of resources such as overfishing in oceans, and erosion of soil due to overgrazing. In such circumstances, there is a need to avert the tragedy of the overexploitation of communally held resources. The success of mutual benefit in the use and management of common resources or property depends on mainly three factors; the nature of the resources, the composition of the resource users, and relationship between the users and the state.
Cinner, Joshua. “Socioeconomic factors influencing customary marine tenure in the Indo-Pacific.” Ecology and Society 10.1 (2005): 36.
Hardin, Garrett. “The tragedy of the commons.” science 162.3859 (1968): 1243-1248.
Seabright, Paul. “Managing local commons: theoretical issues in incentive design.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives (1993): 113-134.
Wade, Robert. “The management of common property resources: Finding a cooperative solution.” World Bank Research Observer 2.2 (1987): 219-234.
Wade, Robert. “Why some Indian Villages co-operate.” Economic and Political Weekly (1988): 773-776.