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Commons Theory and Collective Forest Property in Mexico: When Formal Recognition of Local Rights is Important, But Not Enough

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ortiz, Gabriela; Merino, Leticia
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7195
Sector: Forestry
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): forestry
agrarian reform
participatory management
collective action
Abstract: "Collective action theory and 'the commons approach' are particularly relevant for Mexico, the first country in the world where collective property was recognized by the state, through an extended Agrarian Reform implemented from the 1930‘s to the 1980‘s. Today, more than 60% of the country is owned by communities. Collective tenure is particularly important in forest regions where it accounts for more than 70% of the lands; on the other hand, 90% of communal lands are forested. During the last thirty years collective property and community‘s social capital have sustained the coming to light of numerous community forest enterprises, such as producers of timber, resin, and bottled water; have been providers of ecological and recreational services. Where this process has taken place, community members have had incentives to invest in sustainability, participate in collective action which is required for forest management and local governance, and at the same time, local institutions and social capital have also strengthened. Successful forest community enterprises in Mexico are clear examples of key impacts due to the official recognition of property rights to local communities on the sustainability of the commons. However, these cases only account for less than 20% of the common forests in Mexico. The others face a wide range of problems such as land-use change, forest fires, illegal logging, illegal cropping, and intense migration. We propose that both historically and at present the incomplete 'devolution' or recognition of property rights has been a critical factor for this failure. More often than not communities receive formal rights, but the federal government keeps on managing them and even uses rights in forests or areas where logging concessions were granted to outsiders. Even today more than 20% of Mexico's forests are placed within the borders of protected areas where communities have lost means of livelihoods and have little to say in the governance of these territories. The lack of nesting among the central government actions and the local efforts has impeded the development of appropriate rules and effective monitoring and sanctioning in most of Mexico's forest areas. We argue that full recognition of local rights and the strengthening of local productive and institutional capacities should be considered central axis of policies that aim to contribute to the sustainability and resilience of forest commons."

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