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Common Property and Collective Action: Cooperative Watershed Management in Haiti

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: White, T. Anderson; Runge, C. Ford
Conference: Inequality and the Commons, the Third Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Washington, DC
Conf. Date: Sept. 17-20, 1992
Date: 1992
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/2020
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): common pool resources
collective action
water resources
participatory management
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "Soil erosion is an important contributor to the agricultural decline, rural poverty and emigration which characterize rural Haiti today. Numerous soil conservation projects have used top-down approaches which persuade peasant participation with external incentives and inherently assume peasants to be individualistic, non-cooperative actors. These projects have generally not resulted in sustained conservation. An alternate strategy was utilized in Maissade, Haiti, where peasants now cooperate to treat small, multiple-owned watersheds. Because of up-and downstream interdependencies, watersheds represent common-pool resources. "Field research was conducted to understand the nature of the cooperative activity and to learn of the socio-economic factors associated with participation (e.g. cooperation) and defection. Study results indicate that approximately one-half of watershed-landholders participate and a majority of labor is contributed by persons who do not own land in the watershed. Participants also regularly treat non-participant land, and land tenure status was independent of both landholder participation and structure placement. Indicators of landholder exposure to transboundary erosion and the potential to economically benefit are associated with participation thile the realization of a direct benefit is not. Landholder wealth status is independent of participation though landholders are significantly more wealthy than non-watershed participants. Participation is also strongly associated with membership in farmer cooperatives and labor exchange groups, and the previous adoption of soil conservation innovations. These findings challenge conventional wisdom concerning peasant behavior in Haiti and also suggest that support of indigenous cooperative institutions can facilitate the treatment of common environmental problems."

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