12.6 Conclusion

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Below are listed the main conclusions which can be derived from the examination of empirical evidence in this chapter.

  1. In situations involving conservation problems, villagers are usually reluctant to participate in local CPR management efforts if they do not receive immediate and adequate compensation for the sacrifices entailed, whether these sacrifices take the form of restraint in using the resource or of investment in resource-preserving infrastructure. External provision of appropriate economic incentives is therefore required. The transfers in favour of resource users willing to enter into a management scheme must not be so large as to make them opportunistically dependent on external assist ance. Yet, when resource users are hard-pressed by survival constraints and rehabilitation of the CPR entails a long gestation period, subsidies must be sufficient to allow them to build up the resource to the level where it can be optimally conserved over an indefinite time-horizon. On the other hand, when the resource to be conserved has alternative, highly valued uses that generate negative externalities, it is important that subsidies cover the opportunity costs of land and labour. The agents responsible for destructive practices are not necessarily subsistenceconstrained users who are eager to draw as much income as they can from the CPR, but may also be rich users who find it optimal to follow a shut-down path of resource exploitation because they have available to them better alternative economic opportunities.
  2. As expected from the theoretical insights provided in Chapters 4 and 5, collective action is more successful with small user groups. When the characteristics of the resource are such that co-operation must occur on a scale that involves large groups, the advantages of small groups formally demonstrated by the theory of non-cooperative repeated games need not be lost. Indeed, small units operating at a decentralized level can often be fitted into more complex cooperative structures that arc endowed with rules and explicitly designed enforcement mechanisms.
  3. Co-operation is enhanced when small groups live close to well-delineated CPRs and when they are able to lay down access and management rules in their own way. It is especially important that rules are kept as simple as possible (so as to be easily understandable and enforceable) and that they are perceived as fair by the people concerned. The latter requirement may imply that there is a relatively egalitarian access to local CPRs even when inequality in private landholdings and political power prevails within the village society. Its fulfilment may actually result from the fact that the social structure is articulated around patronclient relationships. If the village elite behave as natural leaders, they may then determine the success of collective action in these egalitarian zones of the village resource domain.
  4. Large groups may sometimes succeed in carrying out CPR-management schemes. This tends to arise when a large group is made more like a small group because members share common norms possibly enforced by a well-recognized authority, or because they are confronted by a common challenge arising from without.
  5. Homogeneous groups are often more conducive to collective action than heterogeneous groups. This is especially true when heterogeneity has its source in cultural differences and in varying interests in the CPR among the users. Yet, as has been shown in Chapter 5, there is no systematic relationship between group homogeneity and success in collective action. As a matter of fact, when heterogeneity originates in differential endowments of the users, cooperation may possibly be enhanced by the heterogeneous structure of the group. The latter result tends to occur when economic inequality does not prevent uniformity of interest in a collective agreement and when the privileged users can assume a leadership role and provide the authority structure required for proper enforcement of regulatory rules. As we know from Chapter 5, if these users have a high interest in a CPR and its management involves coordination problems, it is highly likely that they will take the initiative of collective action. By contrast, the worst case presents itself when the elite hold a strategic position in the CPRs that enables them to dispense with a corporate organization and with the labour contributions of the rest of the resource users.
  6. External sanction systems are often needed to mate up for several deficiencies of decentralized punishment mechanisms, whether the latter are embodied in strategies of conditional co-operation or involve payoff transfers among agents. In order to be effective, these systems must be escalating, flexible, and tolerant; moreover, monitors must have the right incentives to do their work seriously and he accountable to the group. Crucial decisions must be taken publicly and there is a critical role for well-accepted mediators to settle conflicts and serve as role models and norm-reactivators.
  7. Past experience of successful collective action is an important 'social capital' for a village society since it becomes encapsulated in a convention of co-operation that provides a focal point from which it ma! spread by analog!. Rural communities with the best prospects for cooperation are probably those which were lucky enough to meet relative!! easy collective challenges at some point in their history and could therefore build the trust required for confronting more complex situations. Those with the worst prospects, by contrast, are the communities which did not benefit from such a happy coincidence of historical events and became suddenly confronted with hard challenges without an! preparation for collective enterprises. In the latter societies, collective action ma!- nevertheless be possible even though it cannot be rooted in a long tradition of co-operation. Yet, success will then crucially depend on external assistance and it is important that the external agency uses a gradual approach starting with concrete, relatively easy-to-solve problems at the most decentralized Ievel, preferably under conditions where social relations are not too distant or antagonistic.
  8. Good leaders are essential to perform several critical functions: to help people become aware of the real challenges confronting them; to convince them that the!- can ultimately benefit from concerted action; to show to others the good example; to mobilize a sufficient number of them for enterprises requiring co-ordinated efforts; and to ensure impartiality and fairness in the designing and enforcing of' rules and sanction mechanisms. Traditional authority and leadership patterns offer considerable advantages as long as the! carry social prestige and Iegitimacy. However, customer! leaders do not necessarily possess all the required qualities for effective leadership in present-da!- management schemes. Collective action is probably most satisfactory when it is led by relatively young, literate persons who have been exposed to the outside world and who can find some we! of collaborating with traditional structures of' authorit!- and leadership.