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CPR in Mexico

Heterogeneity and Cooperation in CPRs: The role of power heterogeneity for the conservation of common property forests in La Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico.

Vanessa Perez-Cirera (2001)
During the past fifteen years common pool resources (CPRs) theorists and researchers have pointed out the differences between open-access resources dilemmas and common property resources governance problems. Despite the many efforts in identifying key features of user groups and the types of institutional arrangements that account for effective common property natural resources self-governance, several questions remain. One of these is the relationship between the characteristics of resource use groups, their institutional arrangements and, the external environment. Furthermore, amongst the key features of users, the role of group heterogeneity remains to be a theoretical puzzle by itself. The identified effects that group heterogeneity might have on commons’ outcomes are resource conservation, the supply of institutions, the success in monitoring and enforcement of the regulatory regime, the success in resolving conflicts and the adaptation to social and environmental conditions.

The dissertation project covered over these pages aims to address the effects of a little studied dimension of group heterogeneity: that of power. The project will analyse the implications of power heterogeneity in the conservation of common property forests. The dissertation will also try to identify the relationships that might exist with other dimensions of heterogeneity, in particular equity in resource use distribution and cultural heterogeneity and, the links with government incentives and the success of communal regulatory mechanisms. The research will make use of the analytical tools developed by game theory for understanding the strategic interactions between resource appropriators, local CPR managers and State agencies. The focus will be on temperate pine-oak forest ejidos and communities of La Sierra Tarahumara, at the heart of La Sierra Madre Occidental in the northern state of Chihuahua in Mexico.

La Sierra Tarahumara in southwest Chihuahua was originally home to the Rarámuri (Tarahumares). Today, only 20% of the population belongs to three indigenous groups (Rarámuri, Pimas and Tepehuanos); of these, the Rarámuri are the most numerous. With predominantly pine, oak and pine-oak forests, the area accounts for 8% of the national forest surface, is one of the three megacenters of plant species in the world and an important biological corridor for animal and plant species containing:

  • 8% of the national forest surface
  • 20% of the national timber production
  • 0.3% of the national population
  • 0.3% of the national populationis from 3 ethnic groups:
    Rarámuri, Pimas and Tepehuanos
Forest resources in La Sierra Tarahumara have not been sustainably managed. Over the past 30 years more than a million ha of forest have been lost and only 2% of the old oak forests remain (SEMARNAP, 1998). While deforestation rates have lessened since the beginning of the 1990’s, illegal logging is estimated at 50% of the permitted forest extraction (PROFEPA, 2000). Inequities in resource use and access are marked, especially for indigenous groups. With 1.63 million m3 round wood extraction per year ($ 900 billion pesos per year), Chihuahua is the Mexican state with the lowest marginality index.

Yet the marginality indexes of the indigenous municipalities are similar to those of the country’s poorest states. Since 1997, the federal government has received more than 400 denunciations of forest mismanagement and inequities in resource access and distribution of benefits (PROFEPA, 2000).

  • The state with the lowest marginality index.
  • Yet, medium to high marginality levels in all indigenous municipalities.
  • Illegal logging at 50% of the forest production.
  • 411 claims for forest mismanagement and inequities in resource use distribution.

Major changes in land tenure and regulation

1910 – 1934 Reinstatement of communal property Ejidos and Comunidades
1934 – 1986 Private Concessions and Parastatal Logging
1986 – Community Forestry and Co-management
1992 – Transferable communal rights

Most of the forest in La Sierra Tarahumara is held under common property arrangements: ejidos and comunidades. Both systems are derived from earlier measoamerican property arrangements but after the agarian reforms of the Mexican Revolution (1910), the land was given back to communities. However, while for most of the 20th century, forests were held under communal arrangements, only recently were forest management responsibilities transferred to local communities after a large period of private concessions and parastatal logging.

Co-management of community forestry is the main type of organisation of exploitation; any commercial use requires a Forest Management Plan (FMP) produced by a forest technician conforming to federal laws and regulations.

By law all decisions regarding resource use should be made by the General Assembly composed by all ejido members. In practice the Forestry Commisariat, consisting of three elected officials, has decision-making power, executes the Forest Management Plan and makes decisions on resource use and management – including financial administration and allocation of jobs. All ejidatarios are entitled to monitor the Forest Commissariat and in some ejidos a Vigilance Council exists.

Despite the many efforts of the past 15 years in identifying key features of user groups and the types of institutional arrangements that account for effective common property natural resources self-governance, several questions remain. One of these is the relationship between the characteristics of resource use groups, their institutional arrangements and, the external environment. Furthermore, amongst the key features the role of group heterogeneity remains to be a theoretical puzzle by itself.

The dissertation project outlined here aims at addressing the effects of a little studied dimension of group heterogeneity: that of power heterogeneity in the conservation of the common property resources, the relationships that might exist with other dimensions of heterogeneity, in particular economic inequality and cultural heterogeneity and the links with government incentives and communal regulatory mechanisms.

Quantitative:

Regression analysis based on official data, satellite imagery and surveys at the ejido level

Analysis of satellite imagery will evaluate the level of forest conservation -changes in forest cover and quality indicators-. Ejido level surveys will explore equity in use benefits, the type and level of monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms as well as the power heterogeneity between resource appropriators and the Forest Commissariat. Government and state data on the cultural heterogeneity of ejidos will be sought as well as government response to denunciations of malpractice.

Sample: This will be evaluated in a sample of 30+ (of the existing 200 forest ejidos in La Sierra Tarahumara of which 115 realise commercial exploitation) ejidos of La Sierra Tarahumara

Qualitative:

Informal interviews with key informants, state agents and local NGO’s and 2 to 3 case studies

Interviews with agents in the area will be made in order to understand the social and political context in which ejidos and communities in La Sierra Tarahumara operate and to contrast the information obtained in the ejido level surveys. A couple of case studies will analyse in greater depth the results of the quantitative analysis.

Game Theory:

Game Theory is a useful analytical tool for describing and understanding under-provision and over-appropriation problems present in CPRs.

The “Tragedy of the Commons” formalised as a Prisoner’s Dilemma Game (PDG) has been widely used as a metaphor of over-appropriation problems in CPRs.

Theory vs Practice

While the PDG is useful for depicting over-appropriation problems, as a general metaphor it has two important drawbacks: 1) many payoff combinations do not reflect the PDG, and 2) the assumption that human behaviour is driven by self-interest, narrowly defined. Many experiments and case studies show high levels of co-operation are possible, based on repetition, pre-play communication and the existence of norms and sanctions (e.g. Ostrom, 1990; Ostrom et al, 1992; Bromley, 1992; Acheson, 1993).

A model will be constructed that reflects the game and payoff structure of the strategic interactions between resource users, local CPR managers and State agents so as to identify key variables that shape resource conservation and distribution incentives. The implications of the game theoretic evolutionary framework will also be explored.

Expected contribution

At the theoretical level:

  • To understand better the relationships between group characteristics, institutional arrangements and the external environment and their implications for CPR conservation.
  • The fit and misfit between the current developments in game theory and field data

At the empirical level:

  • To understand better the sources of forest mismanagement and inequities in resource use benefits that could transform in viable policy recommendations to improve the conditions of marginalised groups in La Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico.
Last Updated: 18 December 2018