Adaptive Management, Organizations and Common Property Management: Perspectives from the Community Forests of Quintana Roo, Mexico

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"For over 15 years an unusual experiment in community-based management of common property resources, particularly forest resources, has been underway in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Mexico's ejido system gave communities permanent and secure access to common pool forest resources under defined common property management regimes in two stages, 1) When the ejido land grant was originally given as far back as the 1920s, and 2) when communities won the right to exploit the timber on their forest lands in the early 1980s. It is a system of common property management which was almost entirely induced from the outside, a 'donor-initiated common pool resource institution,' although in some cases it clearly was able to draw on indigenous cultural forms and practices. Thus, it is not 'self-organized' although in the best of the cases it now has a significant degree of self-governance. It involves the organized industrial production of timber for commercial markets, an economic activity which occurs in few other common property regimes in the world outside of Mexico. It involves not just sets of rules in use, or 'institutions' but formal community organizations, indeed, market-oriented 'community enterprises' dedicated to commercial forest exploitation. These formal organizations occur not only at the community or ejido level, but also participate in and depend upon second-level organizations at the state level and third-level organizations at the national level in a 'nested' fashion. "These and other factors to be discussed in this paper make community forest management in Quintana Roo an exceptional but still little described case within the common property literature. I will be attempting a synthetic analysis of the history of these organizations, the social and ecological conditions which forged their emergence, and how they have transformed over time within a turbulent policy and political environment and in interaction with the constraints and possibilities of the ecosystem. Some of the key conceptual elements I will use in the discussion include adaptive management and organizational learning, the linking of social and ecological systems, common property theory, social capital, and community-based conservation. The adaptive management approach is a framework that allows us to look at the Quintana Roo organizations as actively adapting and reacting to a typically complex social and ecological environment, as organizations that 'learn.' A practical implication is that it calls for the elimination of the barrier between research and management. In this approach, resource management policies, and resource-directed actions should be treated as 'experiments' from which land managers and 'stakeholders' at all levels of a social system can learn. It takes the assumption of 'trial and error' in the evolution of self-organized CPR systems, and attempts to place it on a more formal foundation of scientific research and adaptive organizational strategies."



IASC, common pool resources, forest management, community participation, ejidos, adaptation, organizational behavior, resource management--policy, CBRM