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Governing Common Pool Resources in Cuban Coastal Zones: Transitions, Ambiguities and the Revolution

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Doyon, Sabrina
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/2155
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources--case studies
coastal resources
property rights
governance and politics
Abstract: "Common pool resource analysis has been mainly based on the study of determined set of independent variables, which now include a more in-depth study of communities (Ostrom 1990; Wade 1994). Indeed, a renewed interest in integrated, community-based resource management, and especially coastal resource management after the 1992 Rio conference stimulated this trend. However, for some of these studies, the notion of community is taken for granted and its analysis does not include an in-depth study of community characteristics. Instead it remains focused mainly on a vision of communities as homogenous units formed by individuals who share common values, interests and ideologies. Another shortcoming of common pool resource studies is linked to the fact that they have been mostly conducted in western capitalist countries without sufficient comparative attention to their socialist counterparts. "This paper hopes to redress those shortcomings with the particular case of Cuba. It will do so by analysing the ambiguities in common pool resources management in the country since the beginning of the Revolution in 1959. Since that time, there have been many transitions in the tenure system, from private to collective, common, and State owned natural resources, which have led to many uncertainties and ambiguities as to how natural resources tenure is perceived, who can use resources, and how they should be managed within the population in general, and in local communities, the State, and its institutions and representatives. These changes and different perceptions and practices regarding natural resources have a direct impact on environmental conservation. Based on an anthropological political ecology approach (Doyon 2002, 2003), this paper is intended as a contribution to common pool resource governance studies by showing the importance of considering inter-scale relationships and the larger social, political and economic context in the study of local uses of common pool coastal resources, and of taking into account the role played by community diversity, politics, power forces, and agencies in this process (Agrawal 2003). "Such an approach is necessary because most of the Cuban social sciences studies have been oriented toward the study of issues linked to the economic and political situation of the country from a structural perspective. They tend to remain at the level of theoretical and statistical debates, without 'on the ground' data (Baloyra & Morris 1993; Monreal 1999). As a result, little work has been done on environmental issues in a social perspective looking at common pool resource governance questions. However, there has been significant environmental deterioration in the country, which is in part due to changes in the property rights system. Starting in the 1900s with the independence process and the expansion of the sugar cane industry, environmental deterioration increased radically with the 1959 Revolution, and transformations in the use of natural resources took place alongside industrial production, with the financial and technical assistance of the Soviets (Bethell 1993). Since the 1990s and the severe crisis induced by the collapse of the ex-communist bloc, environmental destruction has increasingly affected the general population, and more particularly rural communities who depend heavily on natural resources for their survival (Skidmore 1997). Deforestation, soil erosion, water contamination, and biodiversity loss threaten the countrys socio-environmental equilibrium, and particularly affect coastal regions (Díaz-Briquets & Pérez-López 2000). "Based on the case of the coastal community of Las Canas, the analysis will present how the concept of common pool resources has been subjected to different transitions over time and how, since the Revolution, the State has not resolved the ambiguities in its various meanings. I will then outline how, with the crisis of the 1990s, the population of Las Canas has capitalized on these ambiguities and turned them into opportunities for the use and exploitation of coastal natural resources. Finally, I will expose how the States rationalization process and the introduction of conservation incentives with the help of external aid agencies are trying to resolve past ambiguities and to redress common pool resources governance. But first, let us consider how common pool resource studies can be enriched by an anthropological political ecology perspective."

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