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Landscape Diversity, Local Power, and the Appropriation of Natural Resources in the Lower Amazonian Floodplain

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: de Castro, Fábio
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/822
Sector: Fisheries
Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
ecology--research and methodology
social organization
Ostrom, Elinor
Abstract: From Introduction: "The debate over the 'commons' can be divided into three main phases, according to the theoretical assumptions in the framework. The first phase is marked by the acknowledgement of the relationship between resource depletion and its form of appropriation. The seminal publications by Gordon (1954) and Scott (1955) introduced the questions of the 'commons' in an institutional approach by discussing how open access to the oceans responsible for the increasing depletion of maritime fish resources. Hardin (1967) later applied game theory to explain the logic behind resource overuse. This 'tragedy of the commons' model which assumes that users are homogenous, profit maximizers failed to recognize the ability of individuals to build a social arrangement of resource appropriation (Feeny et al. 1990; Feeny et al. 1996). "It was not until the Ciriacy-Wantrup and Bishop's publication on the concept of common property (1975) that the 'tragedy of the commons' model was first contested. The authors argued that human populations were able to engage in collective property regimes and that, in many cases, the so-called 'open access' systems were in fact communal property systems. The recognition of a fourth property system overlooked in Hardin's model was the starting point of the second phase of the 'commons' debate. This phase was led by social scientists who examined the relationship between resource use and resource appropriation within a local ecological context. Netting (1976), in his 'groundbreaking' study on the pattern of property systems in the Swiss Alps, demonstrated that property regimes are closely related to ecological and economic features of the resource, a fact which influences the cost/benefit balance of different forms of appropriation. "The volume edited by Pinkerton (1989) on cooperative management represents a benchmark in this 'political ecology' approach to the commons. It recognizes that local institutions represent a strong potential to conserve natural resources; yet it also recognizes that the development of a co-management system involves multiple resource use, and participation of different uses groups in a complex political process. Therefore, although it takes into account the role of local management in resource conservation, this new approach also recognizes that collective action requires the provision of certain incentives to the user groups (Ostrom 1990). In other words, while the 'cultural ecology' approach emphasizes the relationship between users and the resource, the 'political ecology' approach emphasizes the relationships among users in regard to the resource use. The focus on the interaction among resource users is appropriate for at least two reasons. First, it allows one to evaluate the resource sustainability in light of the institutional sustainability (Ostrom et al. 1993). In this regard, the 'management of people' is based on the structure of opportunities and constraints upon which individuals makes decisions. Second, the focus on the resource user enables one to broaden the analysis from a sectorial to a systemic perspective of the resource appropriation... "In this paper I analyze the ecological and social heterogeneity in the local management of fishing in the Lower Amazon. In particular, I focus on the local context of resource use in the floodplain. The goal of the paper is to evaluate how the pattern of resource appropriation in the floodplain system may affect the local management of fishing in the floodplain lakes."

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