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How Did Policy Intervention Work Out for Commons Forests in Japan? An Analysis of Time-Series Prefectural Data

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Takahashi, Takuya; Matsushita, Koji
Conference: Commons Amidst Complexity and Change, the Fifteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Conf. Date: May 25-29
Date: 2015
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/9862
Sector: Forestry
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): commons
Abstract: "Since the inauguration of the Commons Forests Modernization Act of 1966, the Japanese government has promoted the so-called 'modernization of commons forests,' i.e., the creation of modern (group or individual) property ownership out of Iriai-type (customary users’ rights) forest management schemes in Japan, which were estimated to constitute about 8% of all forests in Japan. Over this period, the creation of modern property ownership has slowed down, but by the year 2010, 36.5% of Iriai commons forests in terms of area in Japan had been 'modernized.' This paper examines the factors that are correlated with the creation of modern property ownership in 45 prefectures in Japan and evaluates the consequences of this policy. It is found that the size of commons forest groups and the ratio of plantation forests in each prefecture are negatively correlated with the creation of modern property ownership; strength of unity among members (e.g., allocation of rights to branch and returning households, etc.) is positively correlated with the creation of modern property ownership; strength of Iriai-type management (e.g., loss of rights after leaving the village, etc.) is positively correlated with the creation of group ownership; and that past labor contribution is positively correlated with the creation of individual ownership. A close examination reveals that the economy of scale in the creation of modern ownership turns into a diseconomy of scale at around 301 households. The possibility that Iriai-type characteristics remain in forests under modernized ownership is identified. Possible policy interventions should be targeted towards certain types of commons forests, depending on the strength of Iriai characteristics, with policy instruments modified for each type. Labor contributions by members of commons forests groups could lead to a transformation to individual ownership."

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