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Basket Cases: Individual Returns from Common Property Resources

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Murphy, Carol; Suich, Helen
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/10535/2336
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
community participation
palm
markets
gender
livelihoods
Abstract: "What happens when craft items that use common property resources as raw materials, change from domestic items to commercially marketed art products in an area where there are common property resource institutions? Prior to the implementation of the craft programme in Caprivi(Namibia), palm baskets were made by women for winnowing grain and had little commercial value. The craft programme, which is part of the national community based natural resource management programme focuses on product development, marketing and sustainable use of palm and dye raw materials and there is now a thriving craft industry in Caprivi. "This commercialisation process has generated craft sales income for individual producers and heralded the formation of local, producer cooperatives to handle the demands of commercial production and marketing. Most producers are poor, rural women in remote villages and craft production is a very marginal activity when taking into account the time and effort required. As a result, the craft income is very modest most producers earn less than US$50 per year but still provides a significant contribution to household livelihoods where opportunities for rural women to generate cash are extremely limited. "With palm resources now having a higher value than previously, people's perception of this common property resource has changed. Indigenous common property resource institutions (i.e. traditional authorities) extract a modest fee for use of these plant resources by producer groups in return for protection of the resource from outsiders. Modern common property resources institutions (conservancies) that commonly generate funds collectively for collective benefit (i.e. from trophy hunting and tourism) have questioned the use of common property resources for individual gain by the crafters. Confusion regarding common property theory by some senior government and conservancy members (usually men), has meant that producers (usually women) have had to defend their right to retain individual cash income from craft sales against suggestions that the craft sales revenue should be distributed collectively. "Challenges to both common property resource institutions and crafters in this context, is that any funds used for common property management or collective marketing (i.e. commission taking by marketing institutions) increase the marginality of craft as a livelihood activity. In addition, globalisation and the mass production of woven items in Asia, means that handcrafted, traditional baskets made of indigenous and sustainably harvested raw plant materials have to compete with very cheap products on the international market. "Despite these challenges, craft marketing in Caprivi is characterized by a very successful dual existence of collective marketing and resource monitoring together with individual cash benefit, making craft sales an important contributor to the household incomes of the producers. The success of collective marketing is based on strong NGO support driven by donors agendas for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Conservancy institutions have been beneficial in bringing a strong focus on sustainable use of the raw materials by the producers."

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