Tragedy of the 'Urban Commons'? A Case Study of 2 Public Places in Addis Ababa

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"There is a burgeoning literature about common resources both in academic circles and practitioners coming mainly from rural development exercises and focusing either on agrarian practices or else pastoral societies. The use of land for farming and grazing purposes, water resources and fishery management, forests and their derivative resources, biosphere areas and tourist attraction sites are all the concerns of scholars grappling with the notion of commons. "It is imperative to employ this rich rubric of knowledge in studying urban issues. This we deem is important because the theoretical debates as well as the research techniques developed within the study of the commons can help galvanize the interests of social scientists focusing on the study of urban issues. This is more so for the study of urban public places whose purposes, functions and prospects looks very much similar to that of the 'commons'. Among other things, public places , i) bring their dwellers into contact which otherwise are diverse, ii) serve as focal points of shared identity and concerns, and iii) are culturally managed, arranged and used. "Despite their vital importance in the urban milieu, urban public places usually face the risks that common resources usually face. They could be ill-managed, deteriorate both in physical and aesthetic forms and become desolate urban spaces. This study is a qualitative study conducted in two public spots in Addis Ababa: The 'Jan Meda' - the biggest multipurpose open air field in Addis and a hillside 'Africa Park' which stretches from the footholds of Menelik II palace further down to the premise of the UNECA. In so doing, it tried to establish whether the 'tragedy of the commons' is actually taking place in an urban setting or not. "To that end, the study looked at the i) origin, ii) functions, iii) management, and the rules in use iv) challenges and opportunities of these two institutions. Key informant interviews were held with the workers and management of these institutions as well as the municipal authorities of Addis Ababa."
urban affairs, urbanization, common pool resources, tragedy of the commons