This article focuses on how common property resource (CPR) institutions managing forest resources in Latin America have responded to change, a subject relatively ignored in the English‐language literature. It examines in particular the evidence surrounding the popular view that CPR institutions must inevitably break down in the face of economic and demographic pressures—an extension of the `tragedy of the commons' thesis. The evidence shows that there have been a number of both positive and negative experiences. The negative experiences include the obvious vulnerability of Amerindian informal institutions to the individualistic incentive structures of market forces. The apparent incompatibility between the market and `gift' economy leads to a questioning of the current donor emphasis on market‐orientated natural forest management among indigenous groups that have received little exposure to market forces, and alternative approaches are suggested. However, many indigenous and other groups have responded positively to market pressures and there is ample evidence that, given an appropriate policy environment, community‐based natural forest management can still be regarded as a `great white hope' for forest conservation, especially considering the largely negative environmental and equity impacts of individualized resource privatization, as in the Brazilian Amazon. However, CPR institutions have generally faced an unsupportive policy environment; it is therefore over‐simplistic for those in favour of privatization of property rights to ascribe their erosion to commercial or demographic pressures per se.
Development and Change – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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